NEW THOUGHT DEFINED
Abel Leighton Allen
The Message of New Thought
“O we can wait no longer,
We too take ship, O soul;
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of ecstasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.
O my brave soul,
O, farther, farther sail,
O daring joy, but safe, are they not, all the seas of God?
O, farther. farther sail.”
NEW THOUGHT is not, as many believe, a name or expression employed to define any fixed system of thought, philosophy, or religion, but is a term used to convey the idea of growing or developing thought. In considering this subject, the word “New” should be duly and freely emphasized, because the expression “New Thought” relates only to what is new and progressive.
It would be a misuse of terms to apply the expression “New Thought” to a system of thought, because when thought is molded and formed into a system, it ceases to be new. When a system of thought has reached maturity and ceases to grow, expand, and develop, it can no longer be defined by the word “New.” It follows, therefore, as a necessary conclusion, that no system of new thought, or no system of thought defined by that expression, now exists or ever can exist. “New Thought” is the result or creation of perpetually advancing mind. The growing mind is not content with the past or its achievements. It is not satisfied with systems of philosophy or religion originating in other ages and handed down through succeeding generations. They do not satisfy the wants of the mind. Systems do not grow, mind develops. It wants something larger and better; it wants improvement, growth, and development. It is merely the logical and natural effort of the mind in its struggle for advancement; it is following its basic and inherent law.
As the growing mind applies thought to whatever enters into consciousness, it gains new and enlarged conceptions and, therefore, grows, and what it thinks is new. New Thought has been defined as the latest product of growing mind. A distinguished writer has characterized New Thought as an attitude of mind and not a cult. Those who grasp the true meaning and spirit of New Thought, or, as it is sometimes called, progressive or unfolding thought, do not conceive that a finished or completed system of thought, either philosophical or religious, is a possibility. All systems of thought change with the flight of time. Decay follows growth. The philosophies and religions of today differ from those of yesterday, and those of tomorrow will be unlike those of today. History alone demonstrates the truth of this statement. This conclusion is inevitable also from the very laws that govern man’s growth and existence.
Man’s body is not the only result of the processes of evolution, growth, and development, but his mind is likewise the product of the same great law. Man is an evolved and evolving being, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Change and growth are the silent mandates of divinity. The eternal current ever moves onward. We do not reckon with all of Nature’s forces. Back of all, unseen yet all powerful, is the one universal law or cosmic urge, forever pushing and projecting man forward into higher physical, mental, and spiritual development.
Through the principle of evolution, physical man was brought to his present state of development. By the same principle has he come to his present mental and spiritual condition. It is a principle operating throughout the universe. Evolution is a movement from the lower to the higher, from the simple to the complex, from the inferior to the superior. How can there be a fixed system of thought, a complete philosophy, a perfect theology, or a defined religion? For as man grows mentally and spiritually he moves away from such limitations. As his mental and spiritual visions expand, the very laws of his being lead him to higher and still higher conceptions of philosophical and religious truth. “Through spiritual evolution are we led to God.”
Every system of philosophy or religion is the result of an evolutionary process, the product of the human mind and understanding. When thought changes, when the mind develops, when the understanding is enlarged, philosophies and religions must likewise change. This is a self-evident truth. Were it otherwise, systems of thought, philosophies, and religions would be greater than the minds that created them and launched them upon the world — the things created would be greater than their creators. Were it not so, systems that have no inherent power of growth would become greater than man, whose very law is growth.
Moreover, fixed systems of thought, either philosophical or religious, are impossible, because they are not the same to any two persons but convey different meanings to each individual. No two persons think alike, or have the same conception or understanding of any important subject, least of all of a philosophical or religious subject. No two individuals are alike or think alike. Duplicates have never been discovered in all the broad domain of Nature. Scientists tell us that even the molecules of which our bodies are composed differ one from the other.
“No two men in creation think alike,
No two men in creation look alike,
No two men in creation are alike,
No worlds or suns or heavens,
but are distinct and wear a separate beauty.”
No individual can convey his thoughts, ideas, and impressions entire to another. Language, either written or spoken, is but a symbol, and at best an imperfect vehicle to convey thought. The meaning of truth is deflected in its transmission. “Thought is deeper than speech; feeling deeper than thought; souls to souls can never teach what to themselves is taught.” The mental and spiritual visions of man differ as the stars differ in magnitude. The same light does not shine with equal brilliancy on the pathway of each individual. What is light to one, may be a shadow to another.
Nor are our ideas changeless and fixed. Our thoughts, conceptions, and understandings change with the advancing years, as the soul receives new influx of light. As each morning bathes the earth in new light, so each returning day and every recurring season bring new meanings and understandings to the soul.
The greatest gift from God to man is a growing mind, one that expands from day to day as the light of truth breaks upon it. Were it otherwise, were our ideas fixed and changeless, life would be intolerable and existence a sterile waste. It is the new conception that thrills the soul and broadens the understanding, as the influx of new life brings physical health and growth.
In the search for truth each ultimate fact becomes a cause, a starting point for the discovery of more truth. Every attainment is the beginning of the next. “Every end is the beginning.” The discovery of a law of Nature is only the forerunner of a more universal law. Thus in the search for truth the endless tide of progression rolls on, forever conveying to man broader conceptions of truth and carrying him into a higher realization of his relationship with divinity.
As man renews his mind and reaches out for larger conceptions of truth, his understanding is enlarged, he gains new viewpoints, his expanded thought is translated and externalized into life, he grows, he advances, he comes into a closer union with God.
Thought is not final. What we last think may be our best thought, but it is not our ultimate though. It is only the fore-gleams of greater thought — we may not encompass the whole truth, but we can enlarge our conceptions of truth and thus bring ourselves nearer the reality. We all live, move and have our being in an atmosphere of truth; truth is only assimilated by the individual. It is not susceptible of monopoly or systematization. It is not encompassed by institutions, but its living spirit is present in every manifested form and object of Nature.
We hear much at times about systems, established religions, and settled creeds. Every institution insists on laying its foundation on a dogma. It has been well said that when a church is built over truth, truth flies out at the window. Every creed and every dogma offered to man undertake to show man’s true relationship to God. The major premise of every dogma rests upon an idea of God, and yet no two persons can be found with the same ideals and conceptions of God. Man’s idea of God is but an image of himself. The major premise of every creed is the conception some man had of God. To talk about settled creeds, the indisputable presumption must be indulged, that all other men have the same conception of God. To have a finished system of thought or a definite creed respecting man’s relations to God presupposes a perfect and complete knowledge and understanding of that relation, which is beyond man’s comprehension in his present state of development. When he has attained the mental and spiritual growth necessary to comprehend that relationship in its fullness and entirety, he will possess all knowledge and all wisdom, he will be omniscient.
It took the Christian Church until the fifth century to formulate its creeds, and yet for fourteen centuries it has been striving to settle them and mold them into an acceptable system. Has it accomplished it? Are its adherents any nearer an agreement? It is no nearer the coveted goal than it was fourteen hundred years ago. It is creed against creed, dogma against dogma, and their adherents still continue to look outward for truth.
Man has caught only a few rays from the great light of truth. Even the agencies of external Nature transcend and baffle our understanding. We use electricity, it is in our bodies, we see its manifestations, we harness it, we regulate it, but we know not what it is. How light reaches the earth is a puzzle to the understanding. Because we do not understand these familiar agencies, the meaning of Nature’s symbols, must we relinquish all efforts to discover their meaning and to find the laws that govern them? Must we desist in our search for truth?
Science is a search for the secrets of Nature. It is an attempt to find the laws governing the universe. The laws of the universe are the laws of God. Science, then, in its broadest aspect is a search for the knowledge of God. As man delves more deeply into the secrets of Nature, the mysteries of the universe, his spiritual visions will expand and he will have broader and more comprehensive conceptions of God. Yet we are told that religion must be let alone; that creeds and theologies must not be disturbed, that they are not the subject of inquiry. How futile the attempt to set bounds to the processes of thought; why should not man seek for a better religion as he struggles for better government? Thought was the first step toward civil liberty. Thought is the first step toward the soul’s liberty.
Truth is the understanding of the principles underlying the universe. Truth is as illimitable and boundless as the universe itself. Principles and laws are changeless, but our understanding of them changes as our minds gain new conceptions of truth and as they grow and develop. Only as the mind dwells on principles can it advance to a larger understanding of truth and higher conceptions of life. Principles are the landmarks to which all things are tied. When man departs from them he enters the jungle of uncertainty and confusion. To gain higher conceptions of the principles and laws underlying the universe is the real work of man. As he comes into an enlarged understanding of these principles, he directs the current of his life in accordance therewith. He grows into a closer harmony with Nature, and enters a richer and more satisfying field of experience.
A moral and religious life must be a growing life, an advancing life, a life positively and constantly constructive. Man is either progressing or receding; spiritually and mentally he cannot stand still. All Nature, with her actions and reactions, proclaims this great truth in every moment of life.
All useful discoveries in science have been the result of progressive and continued thought, thought applied to the discovery of the secrets of Nature. Each discovery has been a stepping-stone to the next. The discovery of each law became a light for the discovery of more laws. Each discovery in Nature is a benefit to the race, a step forward, and enlarges man’s understanding of God.
Man can grow into a knowledge of his relationship with God and reach out toward the divine goal, only as he renews his mind, only as he enlarges his conception of what is within his consciousness, only as he presses forward into a higher spiritual and mental development.
Why should not new conceptions be applied to religion as well as governments? Religion relates to man’s life and destiny: Government regulates man’s relation with his fellow-man. Governments have existed as long as religion. They both sprang into existence with the dawn of reason. They traveled side by side down the ages. They have changed as man has progressed in civilization.
We do not yet concede the existence of a perfect government. The model government is not yet in sight. The struggle to improve government goes on as relentlessly as ever before in history. The rights of man forever assert themselves. They have been improved and secured only as he created new ideals of government, only as he applied new thoughts and new conceptions to existing governments.
The creeds which attempt to set bounds to religious thought, which endeavor to define man’s conceptions of God, were given to the world when scientific thinking was unknown and by men whose conceptions of Nature were no better than idle superstitions. The formulators of the creeds, in their blind endeavor to set up a system founded on the oriental allegory of the Garden of Eden, apparently did not know that truth has no terminals and cannot be defined or circumscribed. If they had looked into the great laboratory of Nature and given thought and study to her processes, they might have there read that Nature tells no falsehoods and that her very law is growth, development, and eternal progress. They might hug the delusion that creeds are static, that they are fixed and final, bur they could find nothing in Nature remotely to hint at limitation or set bounds to her modifying processes. Change is written everywhere in her symbols. Her pulsations of life growth and decay, the morning and evening, the return of the seasons, all bespeak eternal change. There are no fixtures in all her domain. She has her seed-time and harvest, her summer and winter, her heat and cold. Her pendulum always swings.
Everything vibrates and oscillates through the broad stretches of infinity. Since motion produces change, everything in Nature is passing through perpetual change.
Let us apply the analogies of Nature to man, for is man not a part of Nature? The physical man is changing as the moments speed away. Scientists at one time said our bodies were entirely renewed once in seven years. Now they have reduced the time to twelve months or less. Man is constantly putting off the old and putting on the new, but Nature ever tends toward perfection. From the amoeba to man was a long and tedious struggle, but it marks the developing and perfecting laws of Nature. Her movements were ever from the lower to the higher, by the ceaseless and tireless processes of evolution, to the highly complex and individualized man, conscious of his own personality and existence.
We recognize man as a co-worker with Nature, and his right to assist her in her efforts toward perfection. He applies thought to her processes, and with her aid brings the flower, the fruit, the nut, and the animal to perfection. Is not Nature a part of God? Are not these symbols through which God finds expression and speaks to man? Why not Burbank religions, creeds, and theologies, as well as the fruits and products of the earth?
When man is a co-worker with Nature he is a co-worker with God; he applies thought to the processes and laws of Nature, and behold she smiles back with fatness and plenty. Then let us, with a sublime courage and kindly spirit, turn the God-given mind in each to higher ideas of God, and God will smile back with prophetic glimpses of the eternal peace and beauty of true religion.
All thought is new. What we know, what we understand, we do not think about. It is only the new that creates interest or enthusiasm. It alone awakens the mind and soul to activity and effort. The soul is always thrilled with the reception of new truth. Without enthusiasm nothing great was ever accomplished. It has ever been the propelling force of man in every important and momentous undertaking. We instinctively turn from the old to the new. It is the law of mind, it is Nature’s method, it is God’s plan of teaching man to grow.
Emerson said, “What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours, of this old discontent? What is this universal sense of want and ignorance, but the fine innuendo by which the great soul makes its enormous claim?” Progress is the law of the soul. Evermore the mind stretches forth toward the infinite, to grasp and reduce to understanding her mysteries, her wanders, and her secrets. To bind it to a fixed creed, a defined religion or system of thought, is as impossible as to pluck the Pleiades from the galaxy of the stars. The mind that can flash its thoughts across billions of miles from star to star in the hundredth part of a second, as the scientists tell us is possible, cannot be fettered by fixed creeds, dogmas, or systems, or bend to the authority or edict of an institution.
As we constantly advance to higher and more perfect ideals, we obtain clearer conceptions of the principles of truth, we expand and extend our spiritual horizon. We thus come to a better understanding of ourselves, our powers and forces, and the meaning of our existence.
Man grows only as he enlarges his thoughts. How can his thoughts be enlarged except as he takes on the new? By no other process can he enlarge his conceptions and understanding of life. As his ideals expand he comprehends more truth, he moves forward, he extends his visions, he grows, he sees beauty, harmony, and law in all created things.
Hence New Thought is a synonym for growth, for development, for perpetual and eternal progress. It recognizes the superior and excellent in man; it deals not with limitations; it sets no bounds to the soul’s progress, for it sees in each soul transcendental faculties as limitless as infinity itself.
But, someone asks, has New Thought nothing but uncertain and shifting conceptions regarding man’s relation to the universe? Is New Thought a mere tramp in the field of philosophical and religious thought? Is it anchored to nothing? These inquiries do not create surprise, since for centuries past men have been told that a belief in certain formulas war the first step in a religious life. They have become habituated to creeds, beliefs, and churches of authority and therefore deeply impressed with the thought that without them religion must decline and cease to have any vitality and strength. New Thought may be said to possess one fixed creed, that of an eternal search for truth. It is anchored to that one thought. It believes in truth, but it does not accept every conception of truth final. It realizes that attainment of truth is a process of evolution, growth, and development.
Man can acquire truth only as he is mentally and spiritually prepared to receive it. New Thought is anchored to the idea of finding the good and the beautiful in life, the development of latent possibilities in man, and that law reigns supreme in the universe. Anchored to these principles, New Thought moves forward in its quest for more truth, in its search for greater light that leads upward and onward toward a unity with God. It has not come to eradicate the old, except as the old fades away before the advancing light of the new. However, we have been told that it is dangerous to put new wine into old bottles lest the bottles may break. New Thought is constructive, not destructive. It is not here to tear down, but to build up. It employs addition, not subtraction. Its symbol is plus, not minus.
It recognizes that the universe is supported upon the enduring foundation of changeless principles and fixed laws, the result of an infinite and divine intelligence. It realizes also that man may grow into a knowledge and understanding of those principles and laws only as his conscious ideals grow from day to day.
Its goal is the understanding of life, of man, and a conscious unity of man with God. If its adherents differ, it is only in methods and not in the end sought. It does not enjoin methods. There are many avenues leading to truth. The arc-light sends out a myriad of rays, but they all lead to the one light.
The adherents of New Thought worship the omnipresent God, the indwelling God, in whom we live, move, and have our being. They do not conceive of God as distant or separated from man, but as a universal Spirit permeating all Nature, finding its highest expression in man.
No better conception of the God of New Thought can be expressed than was given by Pythagoras to the world six centuries before the Christian era. Listen to the great message:
“God is the Universal Spirit that diffuses itself over all Nature. All beings receive their life from Him. There is but one only God, who is not, as some are apt to imagine, seated above the world, beyond the orb of the universe; but being Himself all in all, He sees all the beings that fill His immensity, the only principle the light of heaven, the father of all. He produces everything. He orders and disposes of all things. He is the reason, the life and motion of all things.”
New Thought teaches that the revelation of God to man is a continuous process through Nature, through reason, the whispering of intuition through the events and experiences of life. The objects of Nature convey their message only as they awaken the divine impulse within, the desire to come into harmony with God.
Molding our lives more and more into the divine likeness is the essential thought in any worthy religion; as Plato taught, the highest aspiration of man is “the free imitation of God.”
To teach man to come into a conscious realization of the divinity within, and the unity of man and God, so that out of the sublimity of his soul he can say with the Gentle Master, “The Father and I are one,” is the supreme purpose and meaning of New Thought.
* * * * *
The Message of New Thought
Table of Contents