Defining New Thought
The Spiritual Smorgasbord. Many congregants of New Thought churches today, especially those who are new, feel that they have been given a “spiritual smorgasbord” of workshops, classes and programs. The variety of offerings is sometimes so diverse that they are not only incapable of figuring out what it is that they need but they are often unable to determine what the church is all about. This is a spiritual problem for the congregant and an organizational problem for the minister and the church.
A solution is available if the spiritual leader is able to clearly articulate what New Thought is all about, show how exploring a New Thought spiritual path leads to happiness, health and prosperity, and then show how the diverse offerings of the spiritual smorgasbord fit into the essential teachings of New Thought. The spiritual smorgasbord is okay as long as congregants are able to “get the big picture.”
This study of the background of New Thought intends to define that big picture by means of establishing a working definition of New Thought and fleshing that definition out with biographical pieces on how New Thought came to be.
The purpose is not to remove the spiritual smorgasbord, but rather to clarify it. Congregants often ask themselves questions like, “Why do we have workshops on “Finding your purpose”? They may ask themselves “Why do I need to learn centering prayer or breathing meditation”? And they may be put off by the apparent materialism in teachings on prosperity and the Law of Mind Action. The working definition of New Thought offered in this study provides the framework for congregants to get the answers to these questions.
Outline of the study. There are five sections to this study. In this section I will provide a working definition of New Thought. In sections two, three and four I will provide short, two-page biographies of those who laid the foundation for New Thought, those who pioneered the early movement and those who created the many branches of New Thought, some of which are still with us today. In the fifth we will come full circle to take a look at other spiritual and religious traditions that are not New Thought, but which seem to serve us in our spiritual journey.
So let's start with an understanding of what New Thought is. That will serve two purposes: to help us put in context other spiritual and religious practices that may or may not be useful on our journey and to help us better understand just what we have in what Emerson called “this new thought.”