Lightmind Extract 059


Bobby 4.4.07
Hey that’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of Haanel! Thanks for posting that, Jana! My own favorite New Thought teacher is Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science aka Science of Mind.

New Thought writers usually trace the origins of the movement to P. P. Quimby, a highly original thinker who started a metaphysical healing practice in New England in the mid-1800’s. He was Mary Baker Eddy’s mentor for awhile, though she later repudiated him after founding Christian Science.

What’s distinctive about New Thought is not its underlying metaphysics, which indeed is quite similar to western “occultist” thought and, in many ways, to eastern ideas. The distinctive thing about New Thought is the emphasis on the practical application of this metaphysical knowledge, for obtaining physical health, prosperity, and all good things in the here and now, in real individual’s lives. In this, it resembles the magic(k)al traditions to some extent. Truth itself is one, and it takes on many forms in human history, some purer than others.

New Thought originally arose as a modification or reinterpretation of Christianity. As time has gone on, the Christian cast of New Thought has faded significantly. New Thought has blended with New Age ideas and practice. Personally, although I love the New Age and New Agers, I think there’s a benefit to keeping the two traditions conceptually distinct, for there are areas where they disagree.

In my own personal experience, it’s been a bit humbling for me to realize that I actually do believe in the basic principles of New Thought, because I like to think of myself as a rather highbrow philosophical type, and New Thought is distinctly middlebrow! Quimby himself was uneducated, for example, and in contemporary New Thought, highly educated people are scarce even among the leadership. There’s something childlike about New Thought beliefs which is distasteful to the academically trained mind. Also, there’s no doubt that New Thought can easily be turned into a populist, sensational, get-rich-quick scheme which appeals not to the Spirit within humanity as much as to the unredeemed egotistical POV (drishti).

Still, there’s a bedrock truth there in New Thought that I’ve come to adopt and, more importantly, demonstrate to myself in my own life. The intellectual side of me can revel in, for example, the parallels between New Thought and Plotinus or Emerson.


3 Responses to “Lightmind Extract 059”

  1. 1 marmalade

    Why did you choose to post this excerpt?

    I was glad to see it, but I was a bit surprised. New Thought isn’t exactly a hot topic for those interested in Integral theories… middlebrow and all that.

    I was raised in Unity and so I know of New Thought in its original Christian guise. I don’t actively think about it much, but it does form the bedrock of my mind. I have great respect for it in some ways, and I’m wary about it in other ways.

    Its true that New Thought has lost some of its original Christian flavor. But, at the same time, its being incorporated into mainstream Christianity. There are several popular tv ministries that have a strong influence from New Thought. And the Daily Word put out by Unity can sometimes be found in mainstream churches.

    I also wanted to comment about the relationship of New Thought and New Age. If you’ve ever belonged to a New Thought church, then you’d know that there is no clear distinction between the two in reality. They strongly inform and overlap with eachother.

    Then again, I’d argue that New Age and Integral aren’t absolutely distinct either. There is no great advantage to distinguishing such labels. New Age is just a popularizing of the exact same type of ideas that Integralists prefer to speak about using more quotes and abstract philosophy.

    As I see it, New Thought led to New Age, and New Age led to Integralism. Many of Wilber’s early influences were the same stuff New Agers read: Jung, ACIM, etc. Even Adi Da seems like a New Age cult of sorts.

  2. 2 muddypractice

    Hi, Marmalade. Once again, thanks for a great and very thoughtful comment.

    I chose to include this post for several reasons…for one, I don’t consider myself to be particularly interested in “integral” theories, so the issue of lowbrow-ness or whatever does not even factor into the equation in the slightest. Personally, I have a wide-ranging interest in contemporary American spirituality in general, and I am fascinated by the entire phenomenon of “new age”…everything from the eighties-style Harmonic Convergence, Shirley MacLaine, power crystals, channeling, Sedona, new age music, etc… to the Madame Blavatsky et al origins… to the rich history of Esalen… (I really need to read Jeffrey Kripal’s recent book devoted to Esalen) to the sixties/seventies guru parade… to all of the manifestations of the past several years, replete as they are with buzzwords like “lightworkers”, “Indigo”, “DNA activation”…

    As I recall, Bobby was not a particularly prolific poster, but I enjoyed the spirit of his posts on the board, and especially his “outing” himself as being someone who takes seriously some tenets of New Thought. I think this post came around the time that everyone was frothing at the mouth one way or another over the film “The Secret”, and during all of that I realized that I, too, find value in some of what gets labeled as New Thought.

    I have never seen the film, and I certainly recognize the crassness behind many of the enterprises of people who harp endlessly about “abundance” and who are trying to create empires exploiting various recycled New Thought ideas for dough; those folks strike me as being some left coast equivalent of bible belt televangelists who are trying to build their own empires based on the public’s desperation and avariciousness (but maybe that comparison in itself is redundant, since as you mentioned, Joel Osteen and however many other evangelicals preaching “prosperity theology” are currently loose on the scene)…likewise, I recognize the cultural pathology that has infected those who would spend untold energies visualizing that new pair of designer jeans that they’ve been craving…not to mention the ugliness resulting from trying to “explain” away those most suffering, desperate, and destitute by saying that it is somehow the fruits of what they have “manifested” with their minds…

    However, I do recognize (and think plenty of others likely recognize) the value, even if only on the most practical, nuts-and-bolts level, of thinking in a positive direction rather than in a self-defeating fashion…and, furthermore, if there is any Divine to speak of, whether “inside” or “outside” of us or however one conceives of /projects/psychologizes the Divine, I believe that it only desires our highest good. I think that experimenting with some of the ideas of New Thought can help those of us who have been inculcated with ideas of the order that God has it out for us somehow, or that we are “undeserving” of happiness, whether we choose to think of it in temporal terms such as prosperity, health, what-have-you…or in more ultimate terms. Certainly, I am all in favor of such “thought experiments”; anything to introduce a more playful attitude into the harsh environment of mind-forged manacles that many such as myself suffer from…

    Much along those lines there was a posting by Jana that I had meant to include on this blog, and will probably end up including eventually. Part of it reads:
    “There are many things that could be said, but here’s just one

    We adopt perspectives, often unknowingly;
    We forget we are free

    At a minimum we have the capacity to be aware of the perspective we are inhabiting, and also to be aware of awareness

    We can also be aware of all the subtle-level agendas we bring, inhabit and radiate

    To be unaware at all these levels is to simply live that much deeper in delusion

    The benefit of a highly positivity-oriented training technique like the secret, is simply that it creates such a stark contrast with the ignorance-oriented and often negativity-oriented training techniques we customarily make use of, without acknowledging such, in everyday life

    Much as we squawk at the notion ‘You create your own reality’ we customarily walk around in the idea that our fixed assumptions and projections about reality are actually real and determining of life, without examination
    We thus walk around in the very point of view we are criticizing, just a negative form of it: ‘My assumptions are actually real’ and ‘My assumptions’ are usually about limitation

    The question is: What will move us toward openness? (which movement is an incremental affair)
    Holding the opposite of your normal view
    Holding a conscious version of your unconscious view
    Holding a positive view to contrast with your negative view

    All these are just playthings, the Real remains to be discovered…”

    I find all of that to be pretty much an amazing post and very provocative. What a great commentary on some of the more salvageable parts of all of the “Secret” ballyhoo. But to get back to the gist of your comment, (which almost certainly reads more lucidly than my response is turning out!) it is sort of curious how New Thought —> New Age, and then many of the ideas to be found in each show up in places that we wouldn’t expect; at least considering the “ghetto-ized” status that New Thought and New Age enjoy among people deeply ensconced in say, the integral movement.

    I am reminded of a friend who had historically engaged in Theravada Buddhist practice. We were discussing a certain Tibetan Buddhist group, and my friend commented that, to his understanding, much of what the group taught seemed to be basically “new age” ideas. Insofar as both Tibetan Buddhism and the “new age” tend to be big on visualization, he is certainly on the money. Furthermore, given the origins of this particular Buddhist group, (okay; full disclosure; it was the one headed by the woman who was the subject of the book “The Buddha from Brooklyn”, and who originally started out giving a mish-mash of self-styled “new age” teachings prior to being recognized as the first female tulku in America) again, my friend could be said to have been not so far off the mark.

    I think that many relatively conservative, ‘”straight-laced” cognitive-behavioral therapists would also not quibble much with say, the essence of the posting from Jana that I quoted above. CBT, is, as I understand it, based to a large degree on the concept of challenging one’s thoughts– if one has it firmly established in their mind that they are a “born loser”, it is not too difficult to see how this might poison their everyday mental stream to a large extent, both on the conscious and unconscious levels. Playfully challenging or experimenting with such convictions would
    seem to be a better way of altering these mindsets than say, countering them with simply reciting affirmations which attempt to hammer home the polar opposite message. A combination of both, though, might prove especially effective! I think that a willingness to experiment is the key here; it threatens (in a felicitous sense) to reveal that all of these solid-seeming thoughts and heavy-seeming concepts are equally insubstantial and ultimately unreliable, be they “good” or “bad”.

    I hope that I’ve made a bit of sense here, and apologize for the length of my “rant”. Consider it a testament to the thoughtfulness of your comment!

  3. 3 marmalade

    “The question is: What will move us toward openness? (which movement is an incremental affair)
    Holding the opposite of your normal view
    Holding a conscious version of your unconscious view
    Holding a positive view to contrast with your negative view

    All these are just playthings, the Real remains to be discovered…”

    This stood out to me. My favorite technique is the second one of becoming more conscious because its easier for me to do this than the other two. For someone raised in New Thought, you’d be amazed how negative I can think. I sometimes have felt New Thought to be a curse upon me for how much I’ve struggled to live up to its ideals. This is why a playful attitude is so important. I’m glad you reminded me of it.

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