For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more.
Such men are even now upon the earth.
—George D. Herron
Within the last twenty-five years two great movements, thoroughly idealistic in their tendencies, have taken root in our own country and are now spreading to the uttermost parts of the earth. One is known under the name of Christian Science, and was founded by Mary Baker Glover Eddy; the other, which is now popularly known as the New Thought Movement, had as its first great apostle P. P. Quimby, of Portland, Me., and later Julius A. Dresser, of Boston, and Dr. W. F. Evans. Mr. Dresser taught and practiced mental healing, and wrote but little. Dr. Evans wrote a number of books, the most important being, "Primitive Mind Cure" and "Esoteric Christianity."
It is not within the scope of this article to trace the history of these two great movements, but rather to show certain points wherein they agree or disagree. Fundamentally, there are certain beliefs held by them in common. The New Thought devotee as well as the Christian Scientist holds to the thought of the oneness of life—that all life is one life; that all knowledge is one—and that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Starting with this fundamental idea of life, it might be thought by some that the two bodies would reach virtually the same conclusions; but that there is a radical difference will be clearly shown in the following paragraphs.
Let it be understood, first of all, that the writer does not attempt to discuss this subject in an antagonistic way, or from any desire to find fault with Christian Science. He recognizes the fact that there must be great vitality in a religious system that has wrought such wonderful changes in the minds of thousands of people in so short a time, and is more than willing to give due credit to its founder for the truly marvelous work she has accomplished. There is no desire to be unjust, but merely to make a plain statement of the facts of the case. The writer has no thought of making any attack on Mrs. Eddy or her followers, and concerning the points wherein he seems to criticize will deal with certain phases of their belief rather than with the work of any individual; for he is in general accord with their affirmative religion, or philosophy, but in direct opposition to their philosophy of denial, which he believes to be unchristian. He grants without question the good they have accomplished in healing the sick and in bringing greater happiness and peace into the lives of others. He believes, however, that this has been accomplished, not through any denial of matter, or of sin, sickness, and death, but through the presentation of the affirmative side of their religion—the oneness of life and the omnipotence of God.
This article is written to make clear the distinction between the New Thought Movement and Christian Science, as the question is so often asked, In what does the real difference consist? The first great point of divergence appears when Christian Science affirms the whole material universe to be an illusion of what it terms "mortal mind," and that through the denial of matter one realizes one's spiritual origin. This is identical with the position held by many of the Hindu people, both of the past and the present time—that Maya (matter) is an illusion of mind. Of course, in this denial of matter the physical form of man is also denied away.
The New Thought believer, on the other hand, looks upon the visible universe as an expression of the power of God. He perceives that there must be an outer as well as an inner; that there must be effects as well as causes; that all the great material universe is the visible word of God—God's word becoming manifest in material form; that the body of man, to some degree, represents man's spiritual and mental life; that by the influx of man's spiritual consciousness the mind is renewed, and the body strengthened and made whole. In this conception of the outer world, the New Thought believer claims to be in thorough accord with what the great Nazarene taught; because, while he said the flesh was of no profit in comparison with the spirit, yet he drew his greatest lessons from external nature. He said: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow." He pointed out how God has clothed the flowers with a beauty and perfection that man's highest art cannot equal. He affirmed that God cared even for the grass of the field; and King David said: "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard."
Christian Science denies away sin, sickness, and death. The New Thought claims that all three have an existence, but an existence that is overcome, not through any process of denial, but through the introduction of true thought into the mind of man; that to deny them away is to attribute the qualities of an entity to the very thing that is denied; that, in order to deny anything away, it must first be pictured in the mind; and that, instead of putting it away, the mental picture is thus perpetuated. Jesus recognized both sin and disease when he said: "Go, and sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee." There is nothing in his teachings to show that he ever denied away either sin or disease, but much to prove that he recognized both as conditions that should be overcome by good.
Another point of difference between Christian Science and the New Thought Movement is the question of individual freedom—the God-given right to think and act for one's self. Christian Science says, Read the Bible, and then take "Science and Health" as its interpreter. Leave all other sources of knowledge alone, it commands, because all else is the product of "mortal mind." The New Thought stands with the Apostle Paul, when he said: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Paul does not concede the right to anyone else to do the thinking or the proving, believing that each mind must deal individually with the problems of life and thus work out its own salvation.
Still another point of disagreement arises in the founding of church organizations. Christian Science, with its thoroughly organized following, has founded church after church. New Thought people think that we have churches enough; that we do not need religions made up of creeds and "beliefs" as urgently as we need a religion based upon the true worship of God—in spirit and in truth. The real temple of God is in the human soul; the New Thought Movement, therefore, does not stand for any ecclesiastical or theological propaganda. It would bring to the minds of the people a knowledge of the laws that regulate and control life everywhere; it would show that through perfect conformity to the inner laws of life come perfect health and happiness, and that it is possible to manifest God's kingdom here and now.
When we come to the healing of disease, a radical difference is found in that the Christian Science practitioner denies away disease and then affirms the oneness of life and of health, declaring that we are to draw our vitality from the one great Source; while the New Thought practitioner stands fairly and squarely on the affirmative side of life. No such thing as denial enters the mind of the New Thought healer when he treats his patient. He recognizes all wrong mental conditions—malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, pride, sensuality, and kindred emotions—as indications of a lack of development, and perceives that with the introduction of affirmative thought no direct denial is needed: that the affirmation carries all necessary denial within itself.
When the feeling of love enters the life, the false feeling of hate must go out; when the thought of law and order enters the mind, unlawfulness and disorder can have no place. The New Thought healer affirms that all life is one; that in God "we live and move and have our being;" that He has given to us all things—health, strength, and happiness. Every thought given by the healer is one of strength, of health, of beauty and loving-kindness; no disagreeable or unwholesome thought goes forth to the patient, as would naturally be the case if the mind of the healer were engaged in denying away mistakes that he hopes to overcome. We believe that our thoughts make us what we are; that it is indispensably necessary to keep the mind filled with clean, wholesome thought—and in so doing there is no room for contradictory ideas.
To recapitulate: Christian Science and the New Thought agree that all life is one; that all intelligence is one; that God is the All in all.
And they disagree on the following points: Christian Science says that the visible world is "mortal mind;" the New Thought declares the visible universe to be an expression of God's handiwork. Christian Science asserts that sin, sickness, and death have no existence; the New Thought affirms that they have an existence, but their existence is only limited and their destruction comes through right thinking and hence right living. Christian Science stands for a great religious sectarian organization; it stands for slavery of the individual to an institution—at least at present. The New Thought stands for a knowledge of spiritual truth among all people and perfect freedom of the individual, in both thought and action, to live out the life that God intended him to live. Christian Science stands for a woman and a book; the New Thought Movement stands for God manifesting through the soul of man, for the eternal laws of creation, and for the absolute freedom of the individual to work out his own salvation. Christian Science stands for a treatment of disease that includes both a negative and an affirmative philosophy; the New Thought in its treatment of disease rests on the omnipotence of God as the one and only healing power of the universe, and is therefore thoroughly and solely affirmative.
Having pointed out the distinctions that exist between the two movements as the writer sees them, let us briefly outline the New Thought and what it stands for, even though it may be necessary to repeat a few statements already made in order to give a clear, comprehensive view of the movement. We do not believe that the New Thought had its origin in the mind of any one particular person or number of persons, but that it is as old as the soul itself. It is God's truth seeking to become manifest in the individual life. We believe, however, that Jesus Christ showed forth the great yet simple truths of life in as clear and comprehensive a manner as they have ever been given to the world. Yet we do not believe that he was the only great prophet of God, but that all peoples have had their prophets—that Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Zoroaster, and Confucius were prophets of God, and brought life and understanding to the people.
The New Thought teaches the universality of religion; that God's spirit is more or less active in the minds of all people, and that each individual receives according to his desires and needs; that there is a natural evolutionary process in the life of man, and little by little he is unfolding to latent powers and possibilities; that the ideal man already exists, but the ideal is still seeking perfect expression; that man grows as naturally as does the plant or the tree, and that there is law and order from beginning to end; that law is universal, and it is through knowledge of universal law that man brings his life into oneness with the universal life—into a condition of harmony wherein he expresses both health and happiness.
There are different stages of religious development, as there are different stages of physical, mental, and spiritual growth. On one plane of religion, man lives a purely sensuous life; on another, the mind becomes enamored of creeds and rituals formulated by the human mind; on a third, man worships God in spirit and in truth. I believe there is no religion in the world devoid of truth—that the truth it contains is that which holds it together; that all mankind is working for a single end; that, although we have differences in the present, they exist rather in form than in spirit, and will gradually melt away. We would rejoice with all people when they rejoice. In whatever way any body of people, calling themselves Christian Scientists or by any other name, bring greater happiness and a higher and truer knowledge of life to others, instead of finding fault, let us gladly endorse that which they have accomplished. We know that whatever good is wrought is of the Spirit of God—in both thought and work.
In defining the principles professed by the New Thought followers, we are free to admit that they do not always adhere to their highest ideals; but exception should not be taken to the law, but rather to the failure to live up to its requirements. The New Thought teaches that we should live from the center of life outward; that we should recognize the power of God working within us to will and to do. There should be such an outflow of faith and love and hope from the soul into the mind of man that his thought would really become transfigured, his body transformed, and God's kingdom expressed "on earth as it is in heaven." We believe that any reform that shall ever come into the world will not be through a work that deals solely with the external life, but will have its inception in the heart—in the soul and life—of man; that there is no problem in life that cannot be solved through a knowledge of the law of God—as it is written in the heart of man—and obedience thereto. The New Thought stands for a vital Christianity that goes to the very heart of things; that pays no attention to the letter or the form, but creates both letter and form for itself in perfect accord with the inner word.
We have, therefore, no desire to build up any sectarian organization or to tear down any that now exists. We would say, with Paul, that "the unknown God whom ye ignorantly worship, Him we declare unto you." God—who is in all, through all, and above all—worketh within you to will and to do. Having no sectarian organization, yet offering the right hand of fellowship to members of all religious denominations; having no belief in creed or dogma, yet recognizing the full rights of all who desire and feel the need of both: the New Thought Movement has not come to destroy but to fulfill. It has not come to tear down, but to build up; yet that building will not be made by the hands of man, but will abide in the hearts of the people—wherein their minds will become strengthened and their bodies made whole.
While the movement is an aggressive one, it would antagonize no body of people. It is aggressive for the fundamental position it takes, being affirmative from beginning to end. It affirms the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God—with all that these words imply. It stands for a gospel of peace and good-will to all men. It is optimistic throughout. It declares that it is easier for man to be well and happy than to be the reverse. It is easier to go with the law than to put one's self in opposition to it. Losing the idea of itself as a sectarian religion, it finds itself in reality a universal religion.
More Articles by This Author Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917