Nuggets


of Conventional New Thought, Process Thought, Scripture, and Other Sources
Blended in or Rejected by Process New Thought


By Alan Anderson

Sprinkled with Fool's Gold--"attractive nuisance" doctrines, psychologically appealing but incapable of withstanding searching rational examination. Although most conventional New Thought theory deserves inclusion in this category, it is reserved here for some examples largely of violating the fallacy of misplaced concreteness by mistaking the abstract for the concrete, the actual.

For the convenience of those using browsers that do not recognize the colors used here, these will be indicated, respectively, as CNT, PT, S, OS, PNT, and FG.

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THE GREAT AGREEMENT

MEANINGS OF METAPHYSICS

MIND--OR EXPERIENCE--AS THE ESSENTIAL QUALITY OF ALL THAT IS

HOW MANY UNITS OF MIND THERE ARE

WHAT THE BASIC UNITS OF ALL REALITY ARE

HOW MINDS--EXPERIENCES--INTERACT

HOW EXPERIENCES GROW--MICROSCOPIC PERSPECTIVE

THE NATURE OF GROWTH--MACROSCOPIC PERSPECTIVE

THE NATURE OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS

GOD

HEALING

LAW


THE GREAT AGREEMENT

Conventional New Thought and Process New Thought agree on what often is called the Law of Mind Action or Law of Being: Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind, or as one believes, so one receives. More broadly, what one is depends on what one dwells on, thinks about, is concerned with, most of the time and holds unconsciously, what one regularly longs for or fears steadily. The disagreement comes in specific understandings of what God and we are like and how the creative process works. All agree with Ernest Holmes's "There is a power for good in the universe greater than you are and you can use it," and Ralph Waldo Trine's emphasis on coming In Tune with the Infinite.

S: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7)

OS: "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Attributed to Abraham Lincoln.


MEANINGS OF METAPHYSICS

CNT: Conventional New Thought commonly uses metaphysics in the popular sense referring to the array of beliefs and practices emphasizing the power of mind and, especially in New Age, all sorts of extrasensory ways of exploring and modifying reality.

PNT: Process New Thought ordinarily uses metaphysics in the traditional, philosophical sense of the branch of philosophy that attempts to discover what everything must be like in order to be at all. In the words of Alfred North Whitehead:

(PT) the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted. By this notion of 'interpretation' I mean that everything of which we are conscious, as enjoyed, perceived, willed, or thought, shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme. Process and Reality, p. 4 (corrected edition p. 3).


MIND--OR EXPERIENCE--AS THE ESSENTIAL QUALITY OF ALL THAT IS

CNT: All is mind or spirit, understood as enduring substance.

PNT: All is mind or spirit, understood as experience, which develops as aware (in some slight or great degree) for a fraction of a second and then, without awareness, endlessly is an influence on later experiences.

CNT: We have experience.

PNT: We are experience.

Charles Hartshorne, in equating mind and experience, refers to (PT) "minds, whose very existence consists in experiencing, in processes of sensing, feeling, remembering, deciding!" (Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers: An Evaluation of Western Philosophy, p. 18) These are not ideas of God, but are real in their own right, in themselves, although they contain God's plans (sometimes called the indwelling Christ) for them and upon their split-second formation they remain most adequately known forever in the mind that is God.


HOW MANY UNITS OF MIND THERE ARE

CNT: Some conventional New Thoughters are unclear about this; most seem to take it for granted that there are many minds, but some maintain that:

(FG) there is only one mind, God, or the Absolute.

PNT: There are many, intertwined, minds, or "mingling minds," a term associated with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, the "Father of New Thought," and the title a book about Quimby by Ervin Seale.

If a mind is a unique unit of experience (see section immediately above), which quickly synthesizes contrasting influences and then becomes part of the past, remaining forever as it chose to be, influencing developing experiences, there is no way that any mind (divine, human, or other) can become any other mind (experience). Belief that the mind called God can individuate or individualize as other minds is founded on an outmoded assumption that a mind is a continuing substance that can be molded somewhat like Play-Doh.


WHAT THE BASIC UNITS OF ALL REALITY ARE

CNT: To the extent that one believes that there is only one mind, this is the only genuine unit. Often "other" units are considered ideas in the mind that is God.

PNT: The basic units are experiences, called by Whitehead occasions of experience, or actual [as distinguished from potential] entities, or actual occasions. In PNT these events, happenings, occurrences often are referred to simply as experiences. According to the ontological principle, all ultimate explanations have to be in terms of actions of experiences.


HOW MINDS--EXPERIENCES--INTERACT

CNT: Conventional New Thought simply takes interaction for granted, although if it holds that there is only one mind there can be no interaction, since at least two entities are required for interaction. CNT seems to assume that the alleged One Mind can be divided or individuated or somehow be made to appear to be many, which in some unexplained way interact.

PNT: Interaction takes place by means of prehension, one experience's feeling the feelings of earlier experiences. At the risk of suggesting materiality of experiences, one might say that it is the nature of minds (experiences) to "interpenetrate," to "contain" earlier experiences, in the sense of prehending them.


HOW EXPERIENCES GROW--MICROSCOPIC PERSPECTIVE

CNT: Conventional New Thought does not realize that there is any question to be dealt with here. The closest that it comes to this is speculation on the relationship that we (assumed to be long-lasting substance) have with God, who also is long-lasting (everlasting) substance.

PNT: During its split-second development, an experience takes in the past, then confronts the divine guidance (called initial aim) offered specifically for it in relation to its unique setting, and chooses the blend of past and possible that it wants. This is an unconscious process in most experiences, but human beings do this partly consciously. The process of choosing is felt as what is known as enjoyment, however primitive or advanced.


THE NATURE OF GROWTH--MACROSCOPIC PERSPECTIVE

CNT: Conventional New Thought takes human and other finite growth for granted, with little or no explanation beyond ordinary biological understandings.

PNT: Process New Thought recognizes that each experience prehends (feels, takes in, absorbs) all earlier experiences, thereby maintaining continuity, order, practical identity, as of our (one-experience-at-a-time) minds and (many-experiences-at-a-time) bodies. Strictly speaking, we and our bodies are new every moment, but since the new contains the old and seldom realizes that it is not the same old entity, for practical purposes we continue as if we were the same beings or becomings as we were some time ago. As Whitehead maintained,

(PT) Each task of creation is a social effort, employing the whole universe. Each novel actuality is a new partner adding a new condition. Process and Reality, p. 340-41 (corrected edition, p. 223).

In what Charles Hartshorne refers to as "Whitehead's novel intuition," Whitehead states, (PT) "The many become one, and are increased by [that] one." Process and Reality, p. 32 (corrected edition p. 21). As the universe rapidly grows, experience by experience, so does God; the universe is God's body. God never changes in perfect character, but God grows constantly by prehending and perfectly preserving experiences, including God's experiences guiding other experiences, constantly adjusted by taking into consideration the choices made by experiences preceding the developing ones that are being guided.


THE NATURE OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS

CNT: We feed thoughts, hopes, fears, desires, expectations into God, and God (or Law) responds automatically with the results dictated by the input.

PNT: God inspires us with possibilities, and creation is produced by our accepting or rejecting the possibilities offered by God. The PNT formula for creation is Past + Divine Offer + Choice = Co-Creation. All creation is co-creation.


GOD

CNT: God is principle, sometimes interpreted as Law (see below).

PNT: God is the ultimate person, understanding person not in the sense of human being, but as any mind that is self-conscious, rational, and value-oriented; only God is the most thoroughly personal. Personalist philosopher Borden Parker Bowne observed that only in God

(OS) can we find that complete and perfect selfhood and self-possession which are necessary to the fullness of personality. In thinking, then, of the Supreme Person we must beware of transferring to him the limitations and accidents of our human personality, which are no necessary part of the notion of personality, and think only of the fullness of power, knowledge, and selfhood which alone are the essential factors of the conception. Personalism, pp. 266-67)

God is unique in possibility-giving function and power, but is not the only mind, nor literally omnipotent, although vastly more powerful than any other mind--and acts exclusively by the power of persuasion, inspiration, lure, love. Personality is not the end product of blind evolution, nor a quality enjoyed by God only in people, but is the foundation of all creation. Hartshorne wrote:

(PT) Personality is the only principle of wholeness, of integration, on a complex level such as the universe must involve, of which we have any experience. . . .

David Ray Griffin, in the panentheism expressed in his Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Exploration, p. 276, says:

(PT) God is the soul of the universe. God relates to the world in somewhat the same way we are related to our bodies. God is thereby the dominant member of the universal society, providing the overall order, and the supreme recipient of value, feeling both the delights and the pains of the creatures.

Whitehead referred to God as

(PT) the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty, and goodness. [Editors Griffin and Sherburne note that "In Whitehead's copy he crossed out leading, and wrote in the margin both persuading and swaying.] (Process and Reality, p. 526 (corrected edition, p. 346)

HEALING

CNT: Healing sometimes is understood as revelation of perfection already actual, yet hidden until revealed.

PNT: Healing is realization of God-offered perfection, accepted consistently and persistently, thereby converting potentiality to actuality by building up the collection of experiences constituting the past, in ever more positive nature, to the point that there is so little contrast between past and divinely provided potential for perfection that it is accepted naturally and easily.


LAW

CNT: Law is considered central to New Thought, sometimes thought to be (FG) an active entity, responsive to our thought, etc., as noted above in connection with creation.

PNT: Law is an abstraction, a description of how the universe works, not an entity that does anything. A law is shorthand for a complicated interaction of innumerable entities, habitually following a pattern formed over vast periods of time, but probably changing. Alfred North Whitehead wrote,

(PT) None of [the] laws of nature gives the slightest evidence of necessity. They are the modes of procedure which within the scale of our observations do in fact prevail. . . . They exist as average, regulative conditions because the majority of actualities are swaying each other to modes of interconnection exemplifying those laws. . . . [T]o judge by all analogy, after a sufficient span of existence our present laws will fade into unimportance. New interests will dominate. In our present sense of the term, our spatio-temporal epoch will pass into the background of the past, which conditions all things dimly and without evident effect on the decision of prominent relations. Modes of Thought, pp. 154-55.


Anderson-Whitehouse New Thought

New Thought Movement Home Page

International New Thought Alliance

A Practical Spirituality: Process New Thought

Some Steps in Learning Process Thought

Intuition and Then Some

Process Philosophy and the New Thought Movement, with links to numerous process sites

Metaphysics: Multiple Meanings

Created Feb. 16, 2000, the 198th anniversary of the birth of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, by Alan Anderson, Contact Info.

Latest update Sept. 2, 2000