New Thought Pioneers: bringing the body into a healthy spirituality
Beginning with what we now know as the Enlightenment, a new voice entered into the dialogue of metaphysics and mysticism, and that voice was mind cure. It may be said that the same historical impulse that gave rise to western democracy and to western science also gave rise to western medicine. We observed that the sun does not revolve around the Earth, that humans have intrinsic rights and that sickness does not occur because of the will of God or of the will of demons. This historical impulse, that moved us from Salem witch trials to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and from the influence of Calvinist predestination to the right to the pursuit of happiness also moved us from bondage of the body to freedom of the body.
In this section I talk about those New Thought Pioneers who carried forth this process of freeing the body from superstition and uniting mind cure with metaphysics and mysticism.
Trends to watch for in this section
Braden devotes all of Chapter 5 of Spirits in Rebellion to “the developing movement” of New Thought. He begins by describing the controversy between the Dressers and Mary Baker Eddy and the pioneering work of Ursula Gestefeld and Emma Curtis Hopkins. Braden writes (:150) “at this period there was the greatest divergency of thought among the various leaders.” Braden then goes on (:151-4) to identify some general trends that seem to have occurred around 1890.
Mental Science to New Thought
Braden says (:151) that Horatio Dresser distinguished quite sharply between what he calls the Mental Science period and the New Thought period and he makes the dividing line about 1890. For Dresser the shift was from a predominant emphasis on the mental or psychological nature of mind cure to an increased emphasis on the spiritual or religious nature of the healing. Braden disagrees with Dresser and says it is more accurate to say that both interpretations are evident in the earlier period.
Later emphasis on prosperity
Braden highlights (:152) that in the earlier period the primary interest was on health. He says that one looks in vain to Quimby or Evans for any preoccupation with what fills a rather large place in the later years, the emphasis on prosperity, “supply,” or abundance.
An excellent audio recording by Rev. Phillip White describing his understanding of these pioneers is available at http://www.truthunity.net/audio/philip-white/background-of-new-thought/lecture6