The New Thought Movement

The New Thought movement, not to be confused with the New Age Movement, originated in the United States in the 19th century. Based on religious and metaphysical ideas, the New Thought Movement has formed into various groups that are difficult to describe because of their diversity. In essence, the movement focuses largely on approaching life in a spiritual way.

Most adherents to the ideas of the New Thought movement consider them self as Christians, but most of the early leaders of the movement were Christian Americans that did not agree with the institutionalized version of Christianity at that time.

The ideas of the New Thought movement have spread, mostly by lectures, books and journals on a world wide scale. It is not basically an American movement, but more of an international movement that has firm roots in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

The origin of the New Thought movement

The origin of the New Thought movement can be traced back to the 19th century when individuals began to question the traditional teachings of the church, a skepticism that can be traced back to the 17 and 18th century. Adding to this, the rise of the romantic movement in the 19th century, the New Thought Movement had found its base to develop from.

In the beginning the movement could have been categorized as a movement of the written word as most of their ideas where presented in books, magazines and leaflets. It was not setup specifically as an organized or a religious group.

Some of the early leaders of the movement where people like Phineas Quimby with his ideas about mental and spiritual healing, and Mary Baker Eddy who founded Christian Science.

The philosophy of the New Thought movement

When looking at the philosophical origins of the New Thought movement, we can look as far back as Plato and his ideas that the realm of ideas were more real than that of the matter as well as the writings in the Bible. The movement also looks towards certain elements of Swedenborgianism and the 19th century German philosopher Hegel. The New Thought movement also has some elements of oriental or eastern spiritual teachings, where yoga and meditation come into play.

When looking towards the early philosophers of the movement, during the 19th century, one can not go without mentioning Ralph Waldo Emerson as he was probably the most prominent philosopher of the movement in its early days. In the 20th century the thoughts of the movement reached a growing number of people through the writings of individuals such as Charles F. Haanel, Wallace D. Wattles and James Allen.

Even though the New Thought Movement is often considered as a single movement, the thoughts and ideas where quite varied between groups. There are some ideas and believes that are present within every group and form the basis for the ideology of the New Thought Movement. The main focus being the idea that God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. God being in all and all being in God.

The New Thought movement does not oppose medical science, even though one of the founder, Mary Baker Eddy did. The New Thought Movement focuses on mental abilities and as such the self healing idea of the mind plays a big part in the movements philosophy.

In 1914 the New Thought Alliance was formed and in 1916 it agreed to a set of codes that were central to the ideas of most groups and in 1917 it adopted a “Declaration of Principles”, which was then modified in 1919. These principles were in use until revised in the 1950s and again in January 2000.

The Declaration of Principles of the New Thought movement, as they were presented by the New Thought Alliance in 2000 are as follows:

We affirm God as Mind, Infinite Being, Spirit, Ultimate Reality.

We affirm that God, the Good, is supreme, universal, and everlasting.

We affirm the unity of God and humanity, in that the divine nature dwells within and expresses through each of us, by means of our acceptance of it, as health, supply, wisdom, love, life, truth, power, beauty, and peace.

We affirm the power of prayer and the capacity of each person to have mystical experience with God, and to enjoy the grace of God.

We affirm the freedom of all persons as to beliefs, and we honor the diversity of humanity by being open and affirming of all persons, affirming the dignity of human beings as founded on the presence of God within them, and, therefore, the principle of democracy.

We affirm that we are all spiritual beings, dwelling in a spiritual universe that is governed by spiritual law, and that in alignment with spiritual law, we can heal, prosper, and harmonize.

We affirm that our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living.

We affirm the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven here and now.

We affirm expression of the highest spiritual principle in loving one another unconditionally, promoting the highest good for all, teaching and healing one another, ministering to one another, and living together in peace, in accordance with the teachings of Jesus and other enlightened teachers.

We affirm our evolving awareness of the nature of reality and our willingness to refine our beliefs accordingly.