NEW THOUGHT PRIMER
Origin, History and Principles of the Movement
by Henry Harrison Brown
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I purpose but an outline of the origin, development, principles and purpose of the widespread and ever widening movement comprehended under the term, "New Thought." The term has no definite meaning. It covers a movement at present heterogeneous and embracing many minor fields. Its limits cannot be mapped. Each person is to draw his own lines. In this Primer, I have intended to make the definition as broad as justice and the Principle of Evolution would let me. I have tried to be as impartial as truth, and to look upon every side of the question only as a reporter. The charge of partiality may be brought in my attention to my own position, but here I feel I have the right to be personal and positive.
TRUTH alone is our aim. I have consecrated myself to Truth and my life is now in her service. I can afford to be true only to her, and in love, just to my fellows. The reader will find in this that which will help him to an understanding of this mighty movement and will also find hints that will direct his future study.
Truth is so lovely that the Truth-seeker soon becomes the Truth-lover. I am glad of the privilege of lifting for a moment her veil, knowing that all who see will follow her.
In Love and Truth,
Truly your friend,
HENRY HARRISON BROWN
Origin, History and Principles of New Thought
Under the law of Heredity science traces evolution from parent to child and thus finds tendencies, faculties and conditions, that appear in parent, are transmitted to off-spring. There is no human condition that is not the child of a preceding one. Variations occur and under the Law of Variation, Nature unfolds. This law of evolution, of continuity, of method, and purpose is a constant one. Ideas also have their heredity. All movements in human thought obey these laws of Heredity and Variation. I purpose to trace in outline the Heredity of the New Thought movement. I will give information sufficient to enable the curious reader to easily fill in additional details. Desiring to deal justly with each form of the movement, I will correct any reported injustice in subsequent editions.
Human progress is the gradual unfoldment of that which is eternally in man. Life in man is germinal; time is the unfolder. Each condition is but a slight change upon some earlier one. Effects are the result of some cause which is but the effect of some anterior cause, which is also the effect of a still more remote cause, so that when one seeks a beginning of any movement he is compelled to answer: "The beginning is in Ultimate Cause." Therefore to trace the beginnings of New Thought we should have to trace the beginnings of history. From earliest historic periods we can trace many of the ideas of this movement. Thought is a wave that flows like those of the ocean from shore to shore. Every age and people is a manifestation of this movement. A wave once started in ocean never stops till it reaches the limit of the ocean, so a thought once started will never stop, for there is no limit to the medium in which it is a wave. That medium is variously called: Energy, Spirit, Soul, God. Truth is one with Ultimate Cause. Truth is ever unfolding. Well says Lowell:—
God sends his teachers unto every age,
To every clime, and every race of men,
With revelations fitted to their growth
And shape of mind, nor gives the realm of Truth
Unto the selfish rule of one sole race.
Individual perceptions and expressions differ and often some old thought, which is the common possession of the race, is given forth by some earnest soul as a supposed new revelation. The student of comparative religions, finds that all these varying systems are based upon the same conceptions. Max Muller tells us that three ideas form the foundations of all religions, viz: 1st—Sense of some over-ruling Power; 2nd—His demands on us, out of which grow systems of worship; 3rd—The recognition of human duties, out of which grow regulations of the conduct of man to man. Jesus announced the same in his condensation of Hebrew Law and Prophets: 1st—Love the Lord, thy God. 2nd—With all thy soul, heart and mind. 3rd—And love thy neighbor as thyself.
No matter what the religion or philosophical belief, it is based upon these. From the conception of primitive man to the present time, there has been but an evolution of human thought concerning the Power that is. New Thought is but a later conception of this One Power. It is an evolution of that conception into a conscious reality. Soul Culture has made this primitive thought of Power an actuality in daily life by methods of spiritual unfoldment.
The nations of antiquity, as evidenced by their relics, and notably by their clay tablets, held many of our present conceptions. Have not these conceptions come down to us with the life they transmitted? The Hindu Scriptures contain many conceptions of God, Man and Duty that are familiar to us. Did they not come down to us with the stock of Aryan words?
From Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament we have derived much of present conceptions of Truth. Why have all these conceptions survived? By reason of Nature's law: The Survival of the Fittest. That which nearest expresses absolute Truth, that which most completely satisfies the Soul, is not allowed to pass into oblivion. "Old ideas revised and improved," could be written above every theologic, scientific, economic, social and artistic creed and above every invention. "Improvements," we call them. They are only enlarged conceptions of the truth that our fathers held. Truth is one. The most any age or race can do is to develop somewhat some phase of Truth by making some distinctive change in the method of expression. Through this Unity of Truth and Unity of Unfoldment, we are connected with all the past and with all mankind. It is thus that the thinker in every age becomes one of the "choir invisible."
THE CHRISTIAN ERA
Present civilization has been most effected by Greek Ideas as they came to us through the New Testament. It is to Paul that we are indebted for this. He was steeped in the Logos Philosophy of the Greek which he Hebraized, and through the impetus of the early church they have been sent down to us. Jesus marks one of the great eras of unfoldment in the conception of Omnipotence. He placed the emphasis upon Fatherhood and that Fatherhood made Deity, Human. The Love Principle had been but dimly perceived before him. He said “Our Father.” Prior to this it had been "Heaven‑Father." Max Muller tells us that "Heaven‑Father" is the term for Omnipotence in every religion. "Heaven‑Father" embodies conceptions of Power and Creation; "Our Father," those of Love and Providence.
Jesus also developed the idea of duty into that of brotherhood, and this lifted the worship of Omnipotence from mere external ceremony and manifestations of fear to worship through Love. He applied the Love principle also to human conduct in the "New Commandment"—"That ye love one another." Thus may Jesus rightly be termed the founder of New Thought, as it appears during nineteen centuries of human evolution.
During the Middle Ages many thinkers arose whose teachings gave birth to what is known as "mysticism," systems that have much in common with the idea of Omnipresence, and the conception of Realization as held by New Thought teachers. Mysticism is a recognition of unity between the Soul and its Divine origin. It is the practical side of the saying of Jesus: "My father and I are one." This phase of thought came into existence at the close of the third century. It developed later into the form one may find in Thomas a’ Kempis and Madame Guyon. It is a condition of most ardent piety, and so warm was it at times that Jesus and the church were thought of as one thinks of wife or mistress.
The Mysticism of the Middle Ages developed in Germany into a philosophy which changed at that time the current of thought, and moulded the opinions of the present. One who desires to become familiar with these authors are recommended to read Kant, Hegel, Shelling, Fichte, Schopenhauer, and especially Goethe and the poet Schiller. In these can be found many of the ideas of New Thought teachers.
But in the English philosopher Berkeley do we find the greatest resemblance. Christian Science in an imperfect reflection of the Idealism of Berkeley. Berkeley, Locke, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz revived the Idealism of Plato. Zeno, before Plato, fundamentally taught the same. Idealism holds that Ideas are All. The external universe exists only as it is reflected in the mind. Matter is part of that which is not the Ego. According to Fichte this non-Ego is but a creation, or an idea of the mind of the Ego. Hegle finds the only reality in the relation that exists between the Ego and the non-Ego. The speculative truth that lies underneath this philosophy is realized Truth in New Thought. What they intellectually perceived is now a constant reality in the lives of thousands.
All interested in tracing Idealism farther can find in any encyclopedia enough to make clear our indebtedness to these philosophers. Rev. F. W. Evans, in his works upon Mental Science, shows, by his quotations, how great was his indebtedness to them, and I here most gladly acknowledge my own philosophic debt to this most lucid, strong, and able of our New Thought teachers.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
I will trace only the last century history of Thought evolution. I have briefly shown how that century was the culmination of all the thought of the past. This new century is the child of the old. New Thought came legitimately from the loins of the Thought with which the nineteenth century and the new nation opened. The new American nation was to a great extent the child of French liberalism. Liberal ideas at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century were permeating every channel of the national life. The national birth but twenty-four years previous had stimulated thought in all directions. In politics, religion, and social life, there was a decided American atmosphere. The discontent with the old had culminated in Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason," a most thought provoking and stimulating book. All who are today emancipated from the rigid theology of that period owe a great debt to him. Political liberty, won in the eighteenth century, opened the way for the intellectual liberty which the nineteenth century won. Now comes the last, and the perfect liberty knocking at the door of the 20th century. This liberty is Spiritual Liberty, a liberty that belongs to each, as a child of the universe, as a son of the one power; or as John has it, "The liberty of the sons of God." It is for this liberty that New Thought stands.