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by Dusty Peterson & Elizabeth McDonald Summer 2003

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McConnell, D.R.. A Different Gospel

Emerson College and New Thought

The gospel preached at the “The First Church of Emerson” can be neatly categorized into that broad body of metaphysical teaching known as New Thought. New Thought was the brainchild of Phineas P. Quimby (1802–66). “Dr. Quimby,” as he was called by patients and friends, though he possessed only a common education, originally healed through secular hypnotism, but later developed a more religio-psychic method. Because it is not a rigid system of belief, New Thought has come to be the banner under which numerous metaphysical groups have marched. The most significant of these are the Unity School of Christianity, Divine Science, the Church of Religious Science, the Home of Truth, the Church of Truth, the Christ Church League, the Society of the Healing Christ, and the Christian Assembly. In addition, although she never admitted it, it is generally agreed by scholars of the metaphysical cults that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was heavily dependent on the writings of P. P. Quimby, by whom she received a healing and under whom she later studied.

These formal religious groups do not, however, represent the extent to which New Thought has influenced the church and world. New Thought ideas form the foundation of a variety of widely read self-help and success-motivation books. The majority who read these writings are unaware that they are metaphysical in nature. Some examples include: Lloyd Douglas’s The Magnificent Obsession, Claude Bristol’s The Magic of Believing, Orison Marden’s He Who Thinks He Can, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Norman Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

But what are the specific beliefs of New Thought? It is possible to state these beliefs in general terms, but only with the qualification that not every New Thought group would hold to all of the beliefs listed. New Thought is characterized by its diversity of opinion, its liberality towards differences, and, unlike Christian Science, its refusal to systematize its beliefs into formal creeds. The following propositions of the Boston Metaphysical Club are representative of New Thought beliefs during the time of Kenyon’s enrollment at Emerson College.

All primary causes are internal forces. . . . 

Mind is primary and causative. . . . 

The remedy for all defect and all disorder is metaphysical, beyond the physical, in the realm of causes which are mental and spiritual. . . . 

God is immanent, indwelling Spirit, All-Wisdom, All-Goodness, ever-present in the universe.
Therefore evil can have no place in the world as a permanent reality; it is the absence of good. . . . 

It [New Thought] would proclaim to man his freedom from the necessity of belief in disease, poverty, and all evil as a part of God’s plan. . . . 

It stands for the practice of the presence of God reduced to a scientific method; of living a selfless life through union in thought with a power that is Love in action. 

It robs death of its sting, though not specifically denying its reality; takes the terror out of disease; crowns life with joy and health and abundance that are the rightful inheritance of every child of God.

One scholar characterized New Thought beliefs this way:

This purpose and these principles emphasized the immanence of God, the divine nature of man, the immediate availability of God’s power to man, the spiritual character of the universe, and the fact that sin, human disorders, and human disease are basically matters of incorrect thinking. . . . 

Many New Thought groups emphasize Jesus as teacher and healer and proclaim his kingdom as being within a person. . . . 
New Thought leaders have increasingly stressed material prosperity as one result of New Thought. 

New Thought implies a kind of monism, or view of the oneness of the world, but it also has strong Gnostic (i.e., dualistic, matter being opposed to spirit) undertones; that is, though 

New Thought is open to all, spiritual healing and strength of mind and body are available only to those who have the insights and who have been initiated into the movements at some point.

In summary, New Thought was a system of cultic belief that taught that true reality is spiritual, that the spiritual is the cause of all physical effects, and that the human mind through positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to create its own reality: either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty.

McConnell, D.R.. A Different Gospel (Kindle Locations 1050-1091). Hendrickson Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Words of Worship at the 5.00 Minute Mark in the Video Below

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