New Thought Movement


The Practice of the Presence of God for Practical Purposes

Using the title of a famous book by Brother Lawrence, New Thought is "the practice of the presence of God," but unlike conventional mysticism, which emphasizes contact or union with God for its own sake, New Thought adds to this most important side of mysticism, the practice of the presence of God for practical purposes. To those who object that one should not use God, New Thought replies that there is nothing but God to use, and/or that God wants us to have the best in all aspects of living, that God constantly offers this to us, and that in accepting it we are living as God wants us to live.

Culturally and organizationally, New Thought is a philosophical-spiritual-religious movement begun in the nineteenth century and continuing today. It is the outgrowth of the healing theory and practice of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, whose influence was spread by his former patients, the most prominent of whom were: Warren Felt Evans, who wrote the first books in what would be called New Thought; Mary Baker Eddy, who established Christian Science; and Julius and Annetta Dresser, who, with their son Horatio, spread the word about Quimby. Former Eddy associate Emma Curtis Hopkins taught her own version of healing idealism, indebted indirectly to Quimby and directly to her own explorations and to Eddy. Hopkins, the "teacher of teachers," taught founders of Divine Science, Unity, and Religious Science. These groups, along with Religious Science-influenced Seich-No-Ie, are the best-known groups in the New Thought movement.

The name New Thought was taken in the 1890s, generally replacing such names as Mind Cure and Mental Science. William James dealt with the movement in Lectures IV and V of The Varieties of Religious Experience under the name "The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness." (The link to a summary of that book also leads to some other important writings.) Some studies of the New Thought movement by Charles S. Braden, Horatio W. Dresser, Stillson J. Judah, and others are given in the bibliography of the most recent survey of the field, New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality.

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Created Oct. 9, 1995
By Alan Anderson
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Latest update Sept. 2, 1998