The Antiquity of New Thought

W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.

So Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid servants.
— Gen. 20:17.

[29] At a time when so-called New Thought is on trial, it is especially comforting to know that in reality there is no New Thought. Thus it is, that the words of the text appear with a special significance at this time. The Wise Man of old said, “The thing that hath been, it is the thing that shall be; and that which is done is the thing which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us.”

In its most spiritual aspect, New Thought is not a modern invention. Neither is it a discovery, as some people would have us believe. It is the uncovering of a Truth that is as old as the ancient of days. It is the scientific application of a force, which is not only instructive, but which is inherent in every human soul. This is the force of Prayer. Four thousand years ago when afflication came upon the house of Abimelech the King, Abraham prayed unto God, and Abimelech and his entire household were healed. [30] Moses healed his sister Miriam of that dread disease, leprosy, by the power of prayer. By this same power did Elijah and Elisha both heal the sick and raise the dead. From those ancient times down to the day of the Great Nativity, there is no reason to believe that the prayers of the faithful remained unanswered.

So far as Biblical History informs us, the first great New Thought came to human consciousness when Abraham conceived the idea of the oneness of all things, or the unity of Causation. The Talmud tells us that his father was a manufacturer of pagan deities. Abraham was a man much given to meditation, and after much thinking he came to the conclusion that “gods many,” or plurality of Causes was inconsistent with pure reason, or, as we call it today, “exact science.” He knew that for Cause to be Cause at all, it must be One, otherwise it is a “house divided against itself.” To the people of that time, who had been taught to believe in gods of war, gods of harvest, gods of love, and all sorts of gods, this was indeed a New Thought. This was such a radical departure from the old ways of thinking that it immediately separated Abraham from his kindred and his people, and drove him into a far country he knew not of. Yet it was in this far country that he was to become the father of a multitude, whose numbers should be as the “sands of the sea.”

What do we understand by this “God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob”? Was it another [31] new god the patriarchs had discovered, in addition to all the other big and little gods of their ancestors? If Abraham objected to the belief in many gods, it does not seem reasonable that he would have added to the number by inventing a God of his own. But the God of the patriarchs was not a new God, but a new revelation of God to the spiritually awakened consciousness of him who was afterward to be called the “Father of the Faithful.” It was not a new God, but a New Thought of the One and Only God, that came to Abraham. After he had awakened to this larger consciousness of God, it was most natural that he should have instructed his son in the same New Thought, and he in turn should have handed it down to his son. Thus we are introduced to a New Thought interpretation of an old phrase, “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.”

For a long time subsequent to the revelation to this New Truth, men turned to God in prayer as naturally as a babe turns to the maternal breast in its hunger. The great wave of human thought advanced in the direction of a newer and higher conception of the Infinite, and then, like the billows of the sea, it receded to the depths of materialism. Through trust and faith in God, the Children of Israel had demonstrated power and prosperity, but as soon as they forgot God, they became separated from the “fruits of the Spirit” as well. Thus enfeebled, they were easily conquered by the Egyptians, and for four hundred years [32] they remained in bondage to the Pharaohs, during which time they gradually drifted back into the Old Thought of paganism with its plurality of gods. One day there arose among them one who was versed in all the arts and sciences of Ancient Egypt. Beyond the Old Thought of accepted slavery, Moses saw the New Thought of possible emancipation, and under the stimulus of this enlarged vision, the Children of Israel, through vicissitudes and misfortunes, followed their great leader back to the paths of peace, power and prosperity.

Once again the thought wave receded, and lust took the place of Law. The flesh-pots of Egypt were more attractive than the “fruits of the Spirit,” and the sacred practice of prayer once more degenerated into vain pleading. Then came Elijah, thundering forth his denunciation of the Old Thought, and proclaiming the necessity of a New Thought and a New Life! The prayers of the people had lost their power, for they knew only the letter, and not the Spirit–when this prophet of the Lord proclaimed the New Order, the restoration of the prayer of Faith. It was by this prayer, by this knowledge of Divine Principle that he healed the sick, and this it was that he imparted to his follower and disciple, Elisha. This New Thought and new practice persisted for a time with varying degrees of success and failure until he came, who spake as never man had spoken.

The Church of Judah had settled down into a sense of false [33] comfort. The prayer of faith had given way to “vain repetitions” and doubtful disputations.” Suddenly there appeared a weird personality from the heart of the desert. The greatest of all the prophets had arrived, dressed in raiment of camel’s hair, and subsisting on locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed the message of the New Order, of the need for repentance from sin. A new interpretation was necessary, and John was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” for the reception of it. The old system of thought had served its purpose, and the New and Larger Thought was already appearing over the mental horizon, and presently the world was to be startled by the physical embodiment of it in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

If men had come to believe that the answer to prayer was more or less uncertain as a result of their experiences, they were to be awakened from their self-hypnosis through repentance and reformation. Repentance comes through the recognition of the fact that the Old Thought and the old life are alike inadequate to produce that joy, love and happiness for which every human heart craves. Reformation comes through open-mindedness, and a willingness to accept the New Thought if it be an improvement on the old philosophy of life. For this reason, we read, that, “In many places Jesus did no mighty works, because of their unbelief.” Yet, “The common people heard him gladly,” because his New Thought was the answer to their long-continued [34] prayers. It was to them a proclamation of emancipation, the restoration of the glorious heritage of the children of God. If the Old Thought had taught them that God was a mighty monarch ruling the earth from a place beyond the skies, the New Thought of Jesus was to reveal to them a loving Father, nearer to them than hands and feet. Moreover, they were to learn that it was not the will of God that the sinner should die, as their forefathers had believed, but that he should be converted and live. If the Old Thought had taken justice into its own hands and stoned the adulterous woman outside the city walls, the New Thought of Jesus was to teach them that in her they could find the “image and likeness of God,” and with the spirit of real understanding say, “I will not condemn thee.”

The change from human justice to Divine Love was so radical that this new system of philosophy was considered a form of insanity. It aroused suspicion and fear in the minds of those who always see calamity in any meditated change of the established order. This New Thought became a menace to existing institutions, ecclesiastical and medical, and so these two great bodies conspired to undermine its teachings. Consequently, they instituted false charges against Jesus, and accused him of consorting with sinners, and associating with loose women. They called him a hypnotist because, “He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” They could not understand that he could go down to [35] sinners in order to lift them up; that he could find more spiritual comfort in the companionship of a reformed Magdalene than in the society of a self-righteous Pharisee, or that he could heal the sick by the power of his own spiritual consciousness. Their Old Thought could not grasp such tremendous possibilities, and so they placed a construction on his acts consistent with their own states of mind. To their minds the New Thought was a passing disturbance to be dealt with by law and to be hindered in every possible way. They could not see in it the beginning of a new civilization, neither could they see that the stone which the builders rejected was to be the head of the corner. All they could see in the philosophy and practice of Jesus was a new and a strange doctrine, in contrast to their previous theories and antiquated beliefs. If he were right, they were wrong, and this they were not willing to admit. However, the centuries have proved that the New Thought of Jesus is the only scientific explanation of the will of God, as well as the best system of ethics the world has ever known.

Two thousand years have passed, and the tide of human thought has again receded. Men admit the grandeur and the necessity of the spiritual life, but they find themselves quite unable to live it, because of many worldly distractions. The Old Thought has saturated them with the belief that they “are of few days, and full of trouble,” and that they are surrounded by all sorts and [36] conditions of hampering limitations. The only pathway they know leads through the “vale of tears,” and with a hopeless sigh, they try to make the best of it. The man with the fatalistic view of the Old Thought says, “We are here, and what can we do about it?” while he of the larger vision answers, “We are here, and we can do a great deal about it.” It is our first duty to use our God-given faculty to investigate the Law of Life, to understand it and to co-operate with it.

We are here for a specific purpose; and that is to prove our Divine Sonship. That is the only reason we are here. We have work to do, and it must be done intelligently in accordance with the principles which Jesus laid down and demonstrated. If Old Thought says that human existence is a game of chance, New Thought declares that it does not have to remain so. If there is a state of existence, we must know that there is a great Supreme Law which governs it. And if there is this All-governing Law, then there must be a science by which it can be understood and administered. The Old Thought may not admit this, but the New and Larger Thought insists that the Great Lawgiver has not left Himself without a law through which to express Himself. This is the Law which Abraham, Moses and Jesus perceived working in the midst of a world which seemed to be lost in utter chaos and confusion. It was through the knowledge of its operation that they performed [37] all their mighty deeds. It was their willingness to co-operate with it that makes them stand on the pinnacles of human attainment. This is the message of New Thought. That what these great master minds have done, we too, working in the knowledge of the same Law, can do. That we, as they, can so model our lives and thoughts that, with this Great Omnipotent Law, we shall become One, and standing on these celestial heights, we shall be able to aid in this Eternal Progress and be a Divine Instrument in aiding humanity in its struggle to “Come up higher.”

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