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Background of New Thought Introduction

Introduction and Acknowledgements

Spirits in Rebellion The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America A Republic of Mind & Spirit

A movement with a rich history and theology

New Thought is a new religious movement, barely 120 years old. To date, only three comprehensive, scholarly books have been written on New Thought: Charles Braden’s Spirits in Rebellion (1963), Stillson Judah’s The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America (1967), and most recently, Catherine Albanese’s A Republic of Mind and Spirit, A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (2006). While these authors are remarkably consistent in their description of New Thought, the movement is not well understood by the general public and those who are new to New Thought are often left with the idea that the movement has no particular roots nor theology. The purpose of this book is to provide, in an accessible way, an easy-to-read reference for New Thought students to gain an understanding of our rich history and world view.

A resource for students and teachers of New Thought

This book is neither comprehensive nor scholarly, however I have tried to draw from the best scholarship and to provide a balanced, if incomplete, introduction to New Thought. If you look at the copyright page, you’ll see it’s released in a way that allows students and teachers to freely copy and reproduce the material for their classes. And I have intentionally printed this on letter sized paper to make it easy to photocopy. If you wish to make an offering to me for this work, please buy a copy for $20 by going here: If you wish multiple printed copies for a class or your bookstore, email me for a quantity discount.


Much of the structure and content of this book comes from Rev. Tom Thorpe, faculty member at Unity Institute. As hundreds of his students know, Tom is a master teacher and an encourager to all who are hungry for spiritual growth and discovery. Thank you, Rev. Tom. Dr. Tom Shepherd, also faculty member at Unity Institute, also inspired much of the work on the antecedents and continues to inspire me and many others to deepen our understanding of our rich New Thought tradition. Thank you Dr. Tom for scholarly excellence and your devotion to the spiritual growth of us all. Rev. Phil White, in 1984 gave a six-part lecture series at Unity Institute on the Background of New Thought, which guided me tremendously in this project and which may be listened to via the Internet at: Thank you Rev. Phil for a lifetime of service.

Thank you

To Mike Gadell, Ph.D., who combined critical thinking, writing skills and knowledge of New Thought to improve this document in many ways. To my students who helped me understand that not every idea is Divine. To Marika, Vanessa and Stephanie, who never cease to love me.


While I have drawn from the three scholarly authors and the three insightful teachers mentioned above, plus a variety of other sources, this book represents my own view of what material and synthesis define the movement we know as New Thought. Please let me know how this material can be improved.

Mark Hicks
Austin, Texas
September 2013

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