Preface – The Spirit of The New Thought

The Spirit of The New Thought
Edited by Horatio W. Dresser

The New Thought has attained a more significant stage of development. It now has a successful international organization holding annual conventions that are truly representative. The various branches of the movement in different states and in foreign countries are working together to foster all that the New Thought stands for at its best. The stage of mere individualism has passed. The time for active cooperation is at hand, and the social values of the movement are receiving greater recognition. This has been especially noticeable since the conventions in San Francisco and Chicago, in 1915 and 1916.

Under these circumstances it seems fitting that the history of the movement should be written. It also seems important to bring together in a single volume some of the best essays and addresses by representative leaders. The papers here collected are for the most part from what may be called the middle period of the movement, when it was passing out of the stage denominated “Mental Science” and taking shape as the New Thought. It was then that the leaders of the movement in New England were pleading for the ideals which are now beginning to be more fully realized. Some of the papers were read at the first annual convention of the International Metaphysical league, held in Boston, October, 1889. The other essays were published in The Mental Healing Monthly and other periodicals. These essays express a common spirit and are as timely now as when first published. Taken collectively they stand for the movement which spread from Boston and New England across the country to California.

It is not easy to define the New Thought, for its adherents differ in point of approach, in method and interest. The term is here used as it has been employed in the Metaphysical Club of Boston, the purposes of which are: ‘To promote interest in and the practice of a true spiritual philosophy of life and happiness; to show that through right thinking one’s loftiest ideals may be brought into present realization; and to advance intelligent and systematic treatment of disease by spiritual and mental methods.” The following essays point the way beyond mere healing to an interpretation of life from the inner point of view, disclosing a broadly spiritual vision, a practical approach to Christianity. Several of the essayists call attention to human selfishness as more central than the “erroneous beliefs” more frequently mentioned by New Thought writers, and others emphasize the great truth that man is an instrument of the Divine wisdom, in contrast with the customary emphasis on the finite self as the centre of power. An effort is also made to pass beyond the mere optimism of suggestions and affirmations to a well-seasoned spiritual philosophy. Thus the common trend of thought is in line with the constructive spirit pleaded for by Mr. James A. Edgerton, president of the International New Thought Alliance, when he said that the New Thought “not only builds new and better bodies and better conditions, but it should build new and better character, new and better service and, as an inevitable result, a new and better civilization. As an evidence of its power to construct, it should build an organization as vital, as healthful, as helpful, and as prosperous as itself. This would not only strengthen all the members of the organization, but would stand before the world as a symbol and a representative of the Thought. As a basis of this unity, all we need is the harmony that grows out of love for mankind and for each other. There never has been a cause that could so help the world if we but live up to our opportunities and give it power through cooperation. We must sink all personal and petty jealousies, all narrowness, all misunderstandings, and manifest the one life in deed as well as in word.”

This volume is sent forth with the hope that it will increase this social, constructive spirit, and arouse new interest in the central principles of the movement. Such an interest will naturally turn upon an interpretation of the new age in which we live. This in turn will give a larger vision than that made manifest by any one leader or writer. This larger vision disclosed by various teachers working together toward a common end as stated in the concluding chapter, was plainly the ideal of the writers to whom we are indebted for these essays. Some of the writers have finished their earthly life. But their spirit lives on to inspire the present leaders. To the others grateful recognition is given for permission to reissue their addresses and essays. No changes have been made that in any way modify the author’s views, and the editor’s notes are chiefly historical. The editor has included such papers of his own as best serve to define the New Thought or round out the plan of the volume, not for the sake of insisting on any ideas of his own, already published elsewhere. The New Thought is allowed to speak for itself, although in other connections some of us may presently make more effort to estimate it with reference to the mental theory of disease, the method of healing, and the method of spiritual meditation. As one who has been associated with the movement since the days when it was denominated the “Boston craze,” in 1883, the editor would suggest that the constructive way to estimate the New Thought is from the practical point of view; not by an adverse criticism of its idea of God, its conception of man as “divine,” or any other theoretical point sometimes assailed by those who have had no evidence of the truth of mental healing. A movement which has lived so long, and which sprang out of pioneer investigations dating back more than forty years prior to 1883, has within it a truth which has come to stay, and is to be assimilated, not dismissed, because it may not readily be defined.

H. W. D

Boston, January 1, 1917.

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The Spirit of The New Thought
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