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A positive philosophy of life is essential to living a happy life.
Most of us get our view of what life is about and for from our upbringing, our parents. And that is all well and good. But others of us are not satisfied or don’t resonate with what we were taught growing up. I remember questioning things very early on, and when I left home for college, I was able to explore my own world view more fully.
Before I go on, let me just say that I am not trying to proselytize! Religion and life philosophy are very personal choices, of course, and if your choices make you happy, then great! I am not here to change minds or make judgements.
But if you’re someone who is looking for a path, as I was growing up, and who wants something that is generally positive and upbeat, this post could be for you!
A Positive Philosophy of Life: New Thought
The philosophy that I found and have largely embraced is called New Thought. The more modern name is the Law of Attraction. I was introduced to this philosophy, oddly enough, in a parenting book called Whole Child/Whole Parent, by Polly Berends.
New Thought is a philosophy of life that William James called “America’s only decidedly original contribution to the systematic philosophy of life”
Two things I like in particular about New Thought are that it’s both empowering and open ended. There are no set beliefs that you have to subscribe to to count yourself a New Thoughter. This is important to me as someone who’s always had a lot of questions.
Unity may be the best-known branch of New Thought. It describes itself as practical Christianity and was founded by Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, both of whom were healed of physical conditions using the methods they put forth. Myrtle was healed of hereditary TB, and Charles of a withered leg damaged as a child in a skating accident. His leg actually grew three inches!
They founded Unity in Kansas City Missouri in the late 1800’s. Current Unity President Connie Fillmore summarizes Unity’s belief system as follows:
1. God is absolute good, everywhere present.
2. Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore they are inherently good also.
3. Human beings create their experiences by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginnings in thought.
4. Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity, and everything good.
5. Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also love the Truth that he or she knows (Anderson and Whitehouse, p.25-26).
However, these stated beliefs are not doctrine per se. A recent pamphlet put out by Unity states: “Unity is more a teaching than a creed and more an attitude than a teaching. Unity is an open-ended religion. Unity does not feel that its teachings incorporate all Truth or final Truth; the search for Truth is as much a part of Truth as finding it.
Unity’s teachings are more a set of directions than they are a doctrine. They are not fence posts that shut you in or shut you out; they are signposts that show you the way to Truth that you must ultimately find in yourself and for yourself (Anderson and Whitehouse, p. 26). Such a statement would likely be supported by all New Thought religions and is a refreshing departure from more mainstream religions for someone like myself!
Indigo Girls: Closer to Fine
Religious Science is another “big name” in the New Thought movement, and is the only group whose beginning was not the result of a healing! Ernest Holmes, the eventual founder, simply had a hunger for truth and studied the Bible and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” which had a profound influence on him.
He also studied other New Thought leaders, Christian Larson and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. Additionally he delved into the writings of Walt Whitman, Robert Browning, and Thomas Troward.
From these minds among others, Holmes developed his form of New Thought. He later studied the mystical writings of Meister Eckhart and actually studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins. In 1926, Holmes published The Science of Mind which was considered the textbook for the Institute of religious Science and Philosophy, and although it was not his original intention, a church was formed around this philosophy.
New Thought Today
So, while many of you have never heard the term New Thought, most know what New Thought is. They just don’t know that they know.
Ever hear of the positive thinking of Norman Vincent Peale, the seven habits of Stephen R. Covey, or the Be-Happy-Attitudes of Robert Schuller?
Familiar with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy, psychosomatic illness, the placebo effect, and what goes around comes around?
Acquainted with the concept of God being within each of us and in all of nature? Aware that your thoughts play a crucial role in the kind of life you experience? If so, then you know about New Thought” (The Roads to Truth by Sherry Evans).
New Thought is over a century old, and yet elements of it are found today being put forth in practically all of the various psychologies of happy and successful living. They generally leave God out of their approach, or simply call God by some other name, but the basis is the same.
New Thought covers a wide range of ideologies all of which fall under the broader term, metaphysics. But all the various approaches have one thing, at least, in common—they are all in agreement that our thoughts play an essential role in our lives (Evans, back cover).
A Practical Spirituality
New Thought applies religious beliefs to solve the problems of daily living through persistent positive thinking and the acceptance of your indwelling divinity (Anderson, and Whitehouse). Many of the teachings are Biblically based, although it does incorporate some Eastern wisdom. As Berends points out in Whole Child/Whole Parent, the paths of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism etc…are much like rafts taking us on our crossing to where we come to know God and no longer need the words and materials that brought us there (Berends).
For me, being familiar with Biblical stories and scripture, it comes more naturally to use them for my inspiration. Most branches of New Thought do base their teaching on the Bible, but there is no sense of it being the only way to go, and certainly there are other philosophical influences.
A Personal Perspective
As I mentioned, Whole Child/Whole Parent was my introduction to this whole world of ideas labeled New Thought. Of the many references within that book, two authors that I ended up reading a lot of were Thomas Hora, a metapsychiatrist, and Emmet Fox, a Divine Science practitioner.
Once I got started reading these books, I couldn’t stop! They really resonated with me and I felt answered a lot of my questions. Since then, I have read oh so many books that would be classified as New Thought. I’ve waxed and waned in my devotion to various authors and their suggestions.
For although there is much conformity in the literature, there is one primary issue on which the teachings are divided, and I have not been able to choose once and for all which approach to take! It would seem both approaches have proven successful for those who practice them, but they definitely have a different basis.
The difference is regarding our role in creating our lives. Some authors suggest we are 100% responsible for said creation and advise us to be very specific in thinking about what we want/our goals as in the popular book, The Secret. At different times this approach has appealed to me, but it sometimes feels like a lot of work!
Moreover, I don’t think that I always know what might be best for me (e.g. loss of a job—you might be tempted to affirm that you get the job back, not realizing that a better, more suitable job awaits you. We aren’t always consciously aware of possibilities out there, so how can we choose them to “create”?)
On the one hand, this perspective is appealing because it empowers you—I choose my life experience by consciously focusing my thoughts and consciously creating images of what it is I want. Great! But such a view can lead to callousness when dealing with the problems of others. I remember an article I read many years ago in a magazine (I think it was East/West?).
There was a woman who was dying of breast cancer. She was of the mind that we create our realities and so set to work to heal herself of this condition. Her attempts were unsuccessful, however, and her friends became rather angry that she was allowing this to happen!! That article sort of tempered my thoughts on our part in creation. I still believe we have a lot more power than we understand, and healings have been experienced by enough people that I don’t doubt the possibility. However, I also think there are other factors beyond our ken sometimes that shape our lives.
Then there is the approach put forth by Joel Goldsmith and Polly Berends among others. This approach is less about trying to consciously create what we want in our lives and more about opening ourselves to Spirit’s (God, Love-Intelligence, the Universe) plan for us, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard the things that God hath planned for those that love him (Isaiah 64:4).”
I find this approach appealing in that it requires less decision-making, less need for knowing what we want/need. I also find it comforting to think that there is guidance for me day to day, if I remain open to it. This approach definitely is counter to the advice given by many of creating lists of goals and specific affirmations and visualizing details.
One well-known (among New Thoughters, at least) practice that fits this approach is Emmet Fox’s Golden Key. The basic premise of this practice is that whenever we are presented with a problem, we turn away from the problem and think of God. Sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do!! I have used this approach with some success, but again, it’s hard to maintain such thinking day to day!
I have come to the conclusion over the years that the difference I’ve just mentioned is not really that important. The first way is more of a mental approach, and the second way is more of a spiritual approach, as I see it. Both ways work, and each way may appeal to you at different times in your life, or to different people…and that’s okay.
I tend to use a combination of the two approaches wherein I do have a list of goals written down, but which I don’t focus on specifically each day. I think it’s essential to work out your own practice…which is likely why the various Scriptures don’t give straight-forward “how to” instructions!
A key element to implementing your New Thought practice is sitting in the Silence. Unity author H. Emilie Cady states in her classic, Lessons in Truth/Complete Works of H Emilie Cady, “If you want to make rapid progress in growth toward spiritual understanding, stop reading many books…What you want is revelation of Truth in your own soul, and that will never come through the reading of many books. Seek light from the Spirit of Truth within you. Go alone, Think alone. Seek light alone, and if it does not come at once, do not be discouraged and run off to someone else to get light (p. 38).”
The other key, in my opinion, and alluded to by the above quote, is perseverance. It’s so very hard to “pray without ceasing!” Beyond the distractions of daily life, it’s easy and tempting to try one author’s advice for a week or two and move on to another….to run, as it were, from book to book seeking Truth from the outside, when it’s ultimately an inside job!
And with all the books and “gurus” out there the temptation is easy to understand—you want results, and when they don’t come quickly you start to wonder if it’s the approach, and off you go! Been there, done that! For me at least, even though I have not stuck with one approach and think my progress has been slowed because of it, there has been a cumulative effect in some respects….that is to say, it’s not been wasted time; I have learned along the way. And I will continue to do so.
One last aside that needs to be considered regarding the role we play in shaping our world is this….while belief in something can make it true for us (placebo effect), it is not always the case. An obvious example is that of the world being flat—though everyone knew it to be true, it wasn’t! I believe that’s the case with the apparent crises in the world today. Trite as it might sound, as Esther Hicks says, “Don’t worry about this world; it is not broken.“
And, really, that’s a blessing….or grace, rather….to be looked after even when your perception is askew! You can really start talking in circles about such things….some might say the world was flat for all intents and purposes to those that believed it was…and not to the brave few who saw past those limits.
But, in my opinion, the fact remains that there was a Truth beyond the individual “truths” of belief, as far as the world itself was concerned. I’m not belittling the power of belief—there is some new science that validates the importance of our beliefs in shaping our lives, as you will soon see. It’s important to remain open to the possibilities, is my point.
Science and New Thought
You may recall, I was a nurse. And I am big believer in science. So for the skeptics among you (skepticism is good), there are actually quite a few books out there that tie new discoveries in science in with New Thought ideologies. Of course, the truly skeptical will not give credence to the science or how it is interpreted, but that’s a choice we each have to make!
The first book I ever read along these lines is the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, a theoretical physicist, and systems theorist. Written in the 1970’s, the book explores the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism. He later wrote The Turning Point which further developed his ideas.
It is in quantum physics that science meets religion.
“The various quantum theories coupled with the observation that the subatomic world seems to work as a whole and ‘touches’ everything at once, indicate unity within the diversity. There is no separation within the quantum world. According to Capra, the basic elements of matter are ‘interconnected, interrelated and interdependent’ and cannot be understood as isolated entities, but only as integrated parts of the whole.’ This implies that because all things are made up of subatomic particles, all things that ever have been in contact will remain in contact forever. Unity has been shown to be basic to the universe.”Evans
Wow! Quite a statement! From the above you might conclude that as conscious beings made up of conscious subatomic particles, the choices we make affect the physical world we see and experience. According to Physicist Fred Allen Wolf, because consciousness is able to change the actions of atoms, our thoughts can affect our bodies in both good and bad ways! To further explore this phenomenon, try reading Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing, or Larry Dossey’s Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing. It really opens your eyes to the potentials and possibilities!
Gregg Braden has also written quite a few books that bridge the world of science and the philosophical world. Braden was a computer geologist for Phillips Petroleum in the 1970’s and a computer systems designer for Martin Marietta Aerospace in the 1980’s. He has an engaging writing style, and I have read many of his books.
His books explain in largely layman terms, what the latest science has to say about how the world works and our part in it. And the findings basically repeat Capra’s findings above. For me, it’s been very interesting to consider that science confirms much of my spiritual reading—it just makes perfect sense that it would come together this way!
Interestingly enough, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted as much in the early 1970’s, saying that when scientists finally are able to break atoms into their fundamental particles what they find will be consciousness (Evans, p. 293). Moreover, there are many prominent physicists who support the conclusion linking the basic building blocks of reality with Consciousness or God: Stephen Hawking-a leading theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, Evan Harris Walker, Professor Emeritus at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study Freeman Dyson, and David Bohm among others.
What I am left with after all my readings about the new findings in science and how they pertain to spirituality is this: “In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts, 17:28).” This correlates with Gregg Braden’s Divine Matrix, and Capra’s statement that everything is connected. This matrix is responsive to our thoughts, feeling, and beliefs.
In more religious terms, H. Emilie Cady states “God is Spirit, or the creative energy that is the cause of all visible things…” as well as “…the substance, or the real thing standing under every visible form of life, love, intelligence, or power (Cady, p.29, 31).” Our dominion lies in learning how to draw from this source. And again, there are innumerable books out there that give guidance on just how to do that! Go and see for yourself how life is beautiful!
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Life is Beautiful
So now you have learned a bit about New Thought as a philosophy of life and how it is supported by the new physics. Put this together with what you read in the Mind Over Matter post, and hopefully you reach the same conclusion I have…life is beautiful! At the very least, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Indeed “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24)” is quite good advice as we go through our days….and the news!
If nothing else, I hope that each of you leaves this post entertaining new possibilities regarding the world and your life and your place in the big picture!
I will leave you with a beautiful song by Peter Mayer that offers a “big picture” view of what it means to be alive. ..
Peter Mayer: My Soul
FAQ Section for “A Positive Philosophy of Life”
1. What is New Thought philosophy?
New Thought is a life philosophy emphasizing positive thinking and the Law of Attraction. It’s known for being empowering and open-ended, allowing individuals to explore their own beliefs without strict doctrines.
2. Can you explain Unity in New Thought?
Unity is a branch of New Thought, often described as practical Christianity. It focuses on the belief in the inherent goodness of individuals and the power of thoughts in shaping experiences. Unity was founded by Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, who emphasized healing through these principles.
3. What are the core beliefs of Unity?
Unity’s core beliefs include the omnipresence of God, the divinity within each individual, the power of thoughts in creating experiences, the effectiveness of prayer, and the importance of understanding and loving Truth.
4. What is Religious Science in the context of New Thought?
Religious Science, another branch of New Thought, was founded by Ernest Holmes. It’s based on the teachings of various spiritual leaders and emphasizes the quest for truth through study and the integration of spiritual wisdom from different traditions.
5. How does New Thought relate to modern psychology and self-help?
New Thought principles like positive thinking, the power of belief, and the concept of an internal divine presence are echoed in modern psychological approaches and self-help literature, emphasizing personal empowerment and mental health.
6. What is a practical application of New Thought in daily life?
New Thought can be applied practically through persistent positive thinking, acceptance of one’s inner divinity, and using religious and spiritual teachings as guidance for solving everyday problems.
7. What are some criticisms or challenges of New Thought?
Critics of New Thought might point to its overly optimistic view of personal responsibility in creating life circumstances, potentially leading to a lack of empathy for others’ struggles. Additionally, its emphasis on positive thinking may overlook complex life realities.
8. How does science intersect with New Thought principles?
Recent scientific discoveries, especially in quantum physics, suggest parallels between scientific concepts and New Thought ideas, such as the interconnectedness of all things and the influence of consciousness on reality.
9. Are there any specific books you recommend for understanding New Thought?
Books like “The Science of Mind” by Ernest Holmes, “Quantum Healing” by Deepak Chopra, and “The Divine Matrix” by Gregg Braden provide insights into New Thought principles and their relation to science.
10. What personal advice would you offer to someone exploring New Thought?
Embrace the journey of self-discovery and remain open to various teachings. Find a balance between seeking external guidance and developing your own inner understanding. Remember, New Thought is about exploring possibilities and empowering your own life experience.