In Memoriam: C. Alan Anderson (1930-2012)

Alan was born in Manchester, Connecticut on July 21, 1930. He died on November 25, 2012, of complications following surgery for a fractured hip suffered in a fall. He is survived by his wife and partner, Deborah G. Whitehouse; and a son from a previous marriage, Eric Alan Anderson.

He received his B.A. degree from American International College in 1952, an L.L.B. (later converted to J.D.) from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1955, and an M.A. from the University of Connecticut Graduate School in 1957. Having been introduced to the more–than–a–century–old philosophico–religious New Thought movement through some books given to him by a former classmate, Alan decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in philosophy “to determine whether New Thought was the greatest thing in the world or the nuttiest”. He earned his Ph.D. at Boston University in 1963, where he was influenced by his dissertation directors, personalist philosophers Peter Bertocci and John Lavely. His dissertation topic was Horatio W. Dresser and the Philosophy of New Thought, possibly the only major university Ph.D. degree in philosophy with a dissertation dealing with New Thought. His dissertation was later published by Garland with the title “Healing Hypotheses” and numerous appendices; it is now available online at Dresser, who earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, was the eldest son of parents who were both patients of “the father of New Thought”, P. P. Quimby. They had met in Quimby’s offices and later married. New Thought can be summarized as “the practice of the Presence of God for practical purposes” or “habitual God–aligned mental self–discipline”. Two New Thought authors, Dresser and Henry Wood (1834–1909) were mentioned with approval by William James in Varieties of Religious Experience.

Other mentors introduced Alan to the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and his colleague, Charles Hartshorne. Since process thought is the only constructive postmodern philosophy, Alan saw almost immediately that it was a far more suitable metaphysical foundation for New Thought than the shifting sands on which it had rested. He then created what he came to call Process New Thought, which amalgamated the Bible–based Christian taproots of mid–nineteenth century Universalism embraced by Quimby with the upbeat, positive practices of New Thought (later supported by research in psychology) and the updated idealism of process thought, known as panexperientialism.

After teaching history and philosophy at Babson College for a few years, Alan spent 34 years as Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, where he was instrumental in helping it earn its accreditation. His courses included Life After Death, Dimensions of Consciousness, Philosophy and Health Issues, American Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, Mysticism, World History, and (with his wife) Self Leadership Through Mind Management. Many of his courses were particularly popular with student nurses.

Books by Alan include The Problem is God (Stillpoint, 1985) and two books jointly authored with his wife: New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality (Crossroad, 1995, rev. ed. Author House, 2003) and Practicing the Presence of God for Practical Purposes (Author House, 2000). He also authored numerous pamphlets and monographs. Papers include “The Healing Idealism of P. P. Quimby, Warren F. Evans, and the New Thought Movement” (Bicentennial Symposium of Philosophy, 1976); “New Thought: A Link Between East and West” (Parliament of the World’s Religions, 1993), and “New Thought: Linking New Age and Process Thought” (Center for Process Studies Silver Anniversary International Whitehead Conference, 1998). Many of Alan’s writings are available online at .

Alan was a member of the American Philosophical Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Center for Process Studies, the Metaphysical Society of America, the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion, The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, and the International New Thought Alliance, in many instances as officer, Board member, or committee chairman.

Alan blended gentle wit, whimsy, charm, and humor with a passion for what he referred to as “ever-closer approximations of truth”. He was well known for defending unpopular positions in the interest of integrity. He took his work seriously but never himself; and although a stickler for proper grammar, he never met a pun he didn’t like. He coined the phrase “serial selfhood” to describe the process concept of a self as a whole series of experiences, reminiscent of the Buddhist concept of one candle lighting another; and he always explained to his audiences that this had nothing to do with flakes of corn or crisps of rice! His favorite bit of his own writing was a bit of doggerel that first appeared in a pamphlet, “God in a Nutshell”:

“I am tempted to say
That the best way to pray
Is to shut up your mouth
And get out of the way.
Simply listen for God
And go join God in play.”

—Deborah G. Whitehouse, Ed.D. (Mrs. Alan Anderson)