New Thought

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

New Thought

New Thought, popular philosophical movement with religious implications; it affirms "the creative power of constructive thinking." A successor of New England transcendentalism, New Thought grew out of the healing practices of P. P. Quimby and the "mental science" of W. F. Evans, a Swedenborgian minister. From its initial emphasis on the healing of disease it developed into an intensely individualistic and optimistic philosophy of life and conduct. The name was adopted in the 1890s to indicate this broader interest. Annual national conventions were held from 1894, and in 1914 the International New Thought Alliance was formed, with branches in England, Australia, and elsewhere. Composed of many smaller groups, such as Divine Science, Unity (until 1922), and Home of Truth, the alliance is held together by one central teaching, namely, that people through the constructive use of their minds can attain freedom, power, health, prosperity, and all good, molding their bodies as well as the circumstances of their lives. The doctrine was widely popularized by such writers as O. S. Marden and Ralph Waldo Trine, especially in the latter's In Tune with the Infinite (1897). Beyond this unifying principle of the constructive power of the mind and the prevailing optimism of the movement, there are a great variety of diverse and often mutually contradictory ideas in New Thought. Individual New Thought leaders have employed concepts from every variety of idealistic, spiritualistic, pantheistic, kabbalistic, and theosophical thought, as well as from Christianity. There are also frequent overtones of the mystical and occult in New Thought literature.

See H. W. Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement (1919); C. S. Braden, Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought (1963); M. A. Larson, New Thought or a Modern Religious Approach (1985).

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