A Baker's Dozen Truths and Contrasting Interpretations of Them

Alan Anderson

An article published in New Thought 83 (Spring 1999), 34-35, 44.

Probably everyone in New Thought agrees with the thirteen numbered statements below. However, it is possible to interpret each of them in two distinctly contrasting ways. As I am listing them, the first interpretation in each case is the one that many New Thoughters will take for granted, although perhaps with reservations about some implications that I have spelled out here. The second is the interpretation associated with the Process New Thought that is gaining popularity as sound philosophical thinking spreads through New Thought. The first interpretation is that of a pantheism that says that God is all. The second is that of a panENtheism that says that all is in God and God is in all, without being all.

1. THERE IS ONLY ONE PRESENCE AND ONE POWER.

A. This is a psychologically powerful affirmation. It emphasizes that there is no devil, no cosmic evil power opposing God, the source of all good. If one stopped here, there would be no disagreement on this point among New Thoughters. However, many go on to interpret it in terms of there being only God--nothing but God. There is no evil worthy of the name; it is mere appearance, mere error of human mind, not that there is any human mind, if God is all. This pantheism raises insoluble problems of how one entity can be another freely choosing entity. Fortunately, there is an alternative interpretation.

B. There is one presence and one power in the sense that there is only one overall guiding, orchestrating, benevolent, all-wise, loving power, interpenetrating everything without being everything. There is a genuine, non-monopolistic, unique divine presence. While evil is not a power in itself, use of the term evil is justified in referring to choices that fall short of what God offers, and to the joint product of experiences that coming together, with or without intent to do so, produce effects contrary to the best interests of humanity or other groups of experiences.

2. GOD IS EVERYWHERE.

A. God's being everywhere requires that God be everything. God is the only substance, which is enduring, thing-like stuff, even if nonmaterial.

B. There is no substance in the sense of a selfsame something that endures and experiences for more than a fraction of a second. Throughout the 20th century, physicists have known that energy--which lies behind all material appearances--comes in the form of fleeting packets, quanta. Science assumed these quanta to be lifeless, but Alfred North Whitehead and his followers in process philosophy (as distinguished from substance philosophy) have understood these units of energy to be living experiences (mostly of a very low order of life-mentality). All of them are rapidly developing minds. We are not beings who have experiences; we are experiences that constitute beings. There is no place to be except in an experience. As 3B will make clearer, God has to be in every experience in order for it to exist, but it could not exist at all if there were only God in it.

3. GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO CREATION.

A. It is God that is metamorphosing in what this view considers creation. Creation is the shaping of formless divine substance into formed substance. The term _emanation_, an outflowing from (yet within) God, may be more appropriate in this context. This "creation" is done automatically in accordance with the thoughts, hopes, fears, expectations, etc. fed into a side of God called Law. We initiate; God mechanically responds. Healing is the revelation of what already is present but hidden.

B. Each act of creation is new and unique, not a reshaping of what has been in existence, although the past is essential to the new creation. Equally important to the new creation is God's loving, luring, persuading (but never forcing) influence, offering possibilities for specific good particularly relevant to the developing experience. Creation is the new experience's selecting from among the influences of past acts of creation and the divinely offered possibilities for the new creation. God initiates; we respond.

4. GOD IS COMPLETELY RELIABLE AND IMPARTIAL.

A. God is partly Law and is impersonal. Since God is impersonal, there can be no favoritism or unreliability.

B. God is completely reliable because God is the ultimate Person, which is not to say human being. A person is a succession of experiences that is self-conscious, rational, and guided by values. Divine reliability is a moral--not mechanical--quality, an expression of goodness, of love, which is steadfast dedication to the welfare of others, equally lavished on all by God, in providing the highest possibilities for each beloved experience, whatever its situation. This highest possibility is always proportionate to expectation (our choice), but as a loving co-creation with God, may go beyond what one requests or expects but is capable of accepting. An impersonal God, an "It," cannot love.

5. GOD IS ALTOGETHER ADEQUATE.

A. God is omnipotent, having all power.

B. God has all the power (the power of lure, of persuasion) that any experience can have, but not literal omnipotence, since God's power is limited by the relatively free power of choice that every experience that is developing anywhere in the universe has. If God had all the power, God would be the only reality, and we would not exist. The amount of power of an entity is proportionate to the breadth of experience and degree of mentality of the entity. God, the soul of the universe, has these qualities to the nth degree, so is the most powerful unit of reality. God's power is sufficient.

6. GOD IS ONE.

A. God is the only unit of reality.

B. God is the One who most perfectly unifies all others, bringing them together in the divine experience of unity. Every act of creation involves the whole universe, and adds to the totality that will enter into each later-developing experience, which is a new unity. A beginningless and endless flow of new unifications is the name of the reality game.

7. THE UNIVERSE IS LAWFUL.

A. Natural laws, expressions of the one divine Law, are active realities, which control the universe, the body of God, which God created ages ago.

B. Natural laws are abstractions. They are descriptions of how the many units of reality interact, in accordance with habits established over many ages, but always evolving, eventually likely to be replaced by vastly different habits that will produce a universe unimaginably different from its present nature. The universe, the body of God, always has been, in some form, and always will be, even as God always has been and always will be; each is dependent on the other for continuing expression.

8. THE UNIVERSE IS ALIVE.

A. Everything is alive in some not clearly specified sense, granting that some life is not obvious.

B. Life is the name for what characterizes all experiences. Whatever has creative activity, aim (choosing), and at least some bit of enjoyment of the choosing process is alive. This is what life is. All the basic units (experiences) of reality are alive (are of the nature of soul or mind or spirit), but many collections of experiences, such as stones, are not alive, although the units constituting them are alive.

9. GOD IS GOOD.

A. God is good overall, in a way that each of us needs to discern and apply, although there can be divine guidance preparatory to human acts.

B. God is specifically, actively good in expression as each initial aim (offer of perfection as appropriate to the situation at hand) given to, and in, each developing experience. God's loving nature is the ultimate standard of goodness.

10. ALL IS MIND (SPIRIT).

A. Since all is mind, there is only one mind.

B. All is mind in quality or type (the sort of entity that it is mental), but there are innumerable minds. This view is called qualitative monism of the idealistic (mentalistic) type, while being quantitatively pluralistic, in terms of the number of units of reality. The view expressed in 10A is monistic both qualitatively and quantitatively.

11. GOD IS OMNISCIENT, ALL-KNOWING.

A. God literally knows everything, past, present, and future.

B. God knows all that can be known, which is what has become, but even God cannot know the future, since it does not yet exist. God knows the tendencies and possibilities, which probably gives something more closely resembling omniscience than we can imagine.

12. GOD IS CHANGELESS.

A. God does not change in any way.

B. God is changeless in moral character, in including the past perfectly, and in being unsurpassable except by God Godself. However, God grows in experience as the universe grows and, consequently, God's store of experiences grows.

13. EACH OF US HAS A SPARK OF THE DIVINE, OR INDWELLING CHRIST.

A. The Christ is the continuing core of each of us, is indeed our reality. This may be said by pantheists, but is not consistent with pantheism, which claims that God is not only our core, but the whole of us.

B. The Christ is the presence of God in each momentary self, as initial aim (perfect plan) for that self, at least slightly different from each self to the next.

In its early days, New Thought did not include all the views that it added as it developed. The time has come for us to consider whether the first interpretations above (many of which are not limited to New Thought) deserve to be replaced by the second interpretations, which are the fruit of some of the best minds of this century. By the growing acceptance of them, New Thought is building a bridge to the more forward-looking thinkers of other outlooks, is attaining a place of respectability in the scholarly worlds of science, philosophy, and theology, and is finding more adequate explanations for the remarkable healing work of all sorts that New Thought has been promoting throughout its history.


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Created Apr. 9, 1999
by Alan Anderson
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