The History of New Thought: From Mind Cure to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Anything is yours, if you only want it hard enough. Just think of it. ANYTHING. Try it. Try it in earnest and you will succeed. It is the operation of a mighty Law.

Does that sound like something from the latest spin-off of The Secret? In fact, those words were written in 1900 by William Walter Atkinson, the man who authored the first book on the “Law of Attraction.”


Atkinson was only one of the many and varied personalities that make up the ...

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The History of New Thought: From Mind Cure to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel

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Overview

Anything is yours, if you only want it hard enough. Just think of it. ANYTHING. Try it. Try it in earnest and you will succeed. It is the operation of a mighty Law.

Does that sound like something from the latest spin-off of The Secret? In fact, those words were written in 1900 by William Walter Atkinson, the man who authored the first book on the “Law of Attraction.”


Atkinson was only one of the many and varied personalities that make up the movement known as New Thought. Composed of healers, priests, psychologists, and ordinary people from all levels of society, the proponents of New Thought have one thing in common: a belief in the power of the mind. In The History of New Thought, Haller examines the very beginnings of the movement, its early influences (including Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg), and how its initial emphasis on healing disease morphed into a vision of the mind’s ability to bring us whatever we desire.

While most histories of New Thought tend to focus on churches and other formal organizations, Haller reveals that New Thought has had a much broader impact on American culture. Bestselling authors from the late nineteenth century and onward sold books in the millions of copies that were eagerly read and quoted by powerful politicians and wealthy industrialists. The idea that thoughts could become reality is so embedded in American culture that we tell each other to “be positive” without ever questioning why. New Thought has become our thought.

Anyone interested in psychology, popular culture, or history will be fascinated by this exploration of a little-known facet of modern culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The popularity of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” in modern American evangelicalism and the proliferation of exponents of this adaptation of Christian teachings have fascinated religious researchers for decades. But are there antecedents to this phenomenon that can help us understand its methods and motivations? Indeed, there is a long and complex history behind this movement, and in this fine work, author Haller (Swedenborg, Mesmer and the Mind/Body Connection: The Roots of Complementary Medicine) takes us into the heart of the uniquely American set of spiritual doctrines known as “New Thought” and shows how such thinkers as Emanuel Swedenborg, Mary Baker Eddy, and Norman Vincent Peale have affected the way we view religion and, indeed, God. Haller concludes that “New Thought marked a triumph of voluntarism, a vindication of religious freedom, and scorn for all forms of authoritarian creeds.” As such, it synthesizes the individualistic impulses of centuries of ecclesiastical radicals and serves it up in a distinctly American religious tradition. Haller, a historian at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, artfully and persuasively pulls together a complex history and shines a much needed light on a seductive and popular religious movement. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877856306
  • Publisher: Swedenborg Foundation Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Series: SWEDENBORG STUDIES , #21
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,110,020
  • File size: 731 KB

Meet the Author

John S. Haller Jr. is an emeritus professor of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has written more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from race to sexuality and the history of medicine. His most recent books include The History of American Homeopathy and Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind/Body Connection.  He is former editor of Caduceus: A Humanities Journal for Medicine and the Health Sciences and, until his retirement in 2008, served for eighteen years as vice president for academic affairs for Southern Illinois University.
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Read an Excerpt

In an address delivered at the close of the summer session at Harvard’s School of Theology in 1909, President Charles W. Eliot (1834–1926) identified several characterizations of future religions. First, they would rely less upon authority—both organizational and literary—as a means of ensuring its role in society. Second, there would be less adherence to the personifications of primitive forces such as mountains, fire, and earthquakes as symbols of deities. Third, there would be less reliance on dead ancestors, teachers, and rulers. Fourth, future religious life would not be constructed around personal welfare or safety. Fifth, religions would not be sacrificial or expiatory in nature. Sixth, they would be less anthropomorphic in their representations of God. And seventh, they would be less ascetic and gloomy. He also predicted that concepts of God would adopt the language of modern physics by including such descriptive terms as energy, vital force, omnipresence, and infinite spirit. In addition, religion would be monotheistic, indwelling, and immanent in all things, and reject any conception that humans or God might be alienated from the world. Most important, humans would discover God through self-consciousness. There is in each individual, Eliot observed, “an animating, ruling, characteristic essence, or spirit, which is himself.” It was this personality or soul that rallied the body. The religions of the future would no longer approach evil or human pain and suffering as punishment or moral training but as a preventable evil. “Institutional Christianity as a rule condemned the mass of mankind to eternal torment,” he noted. “The new religion will make no such pretensions, and will teach no such horrible and perverse doctrines.” Instead of justice, the religions of the future would emphasize God’s all-pervading love.

Eliot’s address was not just a prediction of religion and spirituality in the future, but an unusually prescient description of New Thought, which, by the start of the twentieth century, boasted some four hundred churches and centers serving approximately a million adherents. By the Second World War, its numbers had swelled to between fifteen and twenty million. Today, estimates are difficult, since a large portion of New Thought’s more secular literature is unattached to any specific church or organization. We may, in fact, be justified in calling New Thought a “secondary religion” whose churched and unchurched adherents profess teachings built on principles centered around healing, self-discovery, and empowerment.

The passage of American metaphysical thinking from Calvinism to New Thought took a circuitous route that began with sober orthodoxy and worked its way through a fashion spread of newly found sciences before turning sympathetically to the appeal of a dogma-free religion as conceived by Swedenborg and temporized by Emerson. Out of their inspiration emerged a school of thinking whose gifted teachers constructed an idealistic philosophy of free spirits searching for a pluralistic community of cooperating minds. Some of these teachers taught a science of mind using the empirical reality of the self to achieve personal and collective growth. For others, it was the more antiquated concept of the soul that asserted itself. In both, however, there was the acceptance of belief, however derived, as the basis for action. In this sense, New Thought became an expression of tolerance, of imagination, and of contentment with life, including its many paradoxes. Having fused together the faith of the seventeenth century, the reason of the eighteenth, and the feeling of the nineteenth, New Thought broke into the twentieth century with what one might call a genuine “Americanism”—a worship of the practical over the theoretical, of self-sufficiency over self-surrender, of instant over delayed gratification, and cash value as the measure of personal success.

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Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 3

Chapter 1 New Beginnings 18

Chapter 2 Christ Science 44

Chapter 3 Competing Sciences 65

Chapter 4 Metropolitan Religions 97

Chapter 5 The Psychologies of Healthy-Mindedness 123

Chapter 6 Evolutions Divine Plan 159

Chapter 7 The Marketplace of Healing 190

Chapter 8 The Prophet Margin 214

Chapter 9 Dream Weavers and Money Changers 243

Chapter 10 A Retrospective 274

Appendix A New Thought Denominations, Centers, and Institutes 283

Appendix B Sampling of New Thought Authors 287

Notes 291

Bibliography 325

Index 373

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    The history of New Thought from Swedenborg, Emerson, Quimby, Mar

    The history of New Thought from Swedenborg, Emerson, Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, William James, Norman Vincent Peale, and others right down to Eckhart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. The author sees New Thought as a vibrant and wonderfully American contribution to religion but regrets its disdain for its own history. He finds theologian Matthew Fox to be part of the movement but doesn't say why, except that he's a mystic and a syncretist. He discusses Seicho no Ie but not other Japanese-based religions; it would be interesting to consider whether Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International fall within this orbit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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