The Hanging Temple Monastery of Hengshan

Built in 491, Hanging Monastery is an Architectural Wonder of the World, as it hangs on the West Cliff of Jinxia Gorge more than 50 meters above the ground.

The Hanging Temple Monastery of Hengshan literally hangs on the side of Hengshan Mountain, China sustained by only a few Wooden Poles.

Hanging Monastery has survived more than 1500 years. The extant Monastery was largely rebuilt and maintained in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

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The New Thought Movement is About Becoming God

Authors of New Thought literature claim that the core of its philosophy is the belief that people can utilize the power of their minds to lead happier, more fulfilling lives. However, after my research, I disagree wholeheartedly with the notion that this philosophy alone represents the central message or goal of the New Thought Movement literature; if we take any dictionary definition of God’s role and compare it to that of the individual in the claims of New Thought philosophy, we soon discover that they are one in the same (i.e., humans assuming God-like roles in controlling the destiny and outcomes of their lives).

The New Thought Movement is a body of philosophical thought that emanated from the mental-healing practices of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. From its initial emphasis on the healing of disease in the 1890s, the New Thought Movement evolved into a way of life and conduct. Annual national conventions started in 1894, and in 1914 the International New Thought Alliance was formed with branches in England, Australia, and elsewhere. The alliance was tied together by one central premise: that people, through the constructive use of their minds, could attain freedom, power, health, prosperity, and all that is good—molding their bodies as well as the circumstances of their lives (New Thought).

In the late 1890s, printed text took off as a way of spreading information. As a result, the New Thought Movement gained many members by distributing literature about their religion. During this time, William Walker Atkinson published Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. Atkinson went on to write a magazine and many other texts touting the tenants of the New Thought Movement.  Atkinson was one of the first people of the 20th century to bring New Thought to prominence. As Atkinson’s ideas were spread, New Thought gained more momentum with the Law of Attraction as a New Thought principle.

In 1907, Bruce MacLelland wrote a book entitled book Prosperity Through Thought Force. Prosperity explained the Law of Attraction as a philosophy that states that one attracts into their life what they think about. It lays groundwork for mental thoughts that envision success and then asserts those positive thoughts and positive visions of the future for one’s self, making those visions a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Law of Attraction is one of the many teachings of New Thought.

Authors of New Thought literature claim that the core of its philosophy is the belief that people can utilize the power of their minds to lead happier, more fulfilling lives. However, after my research, I disagree wholeheartedly with the notion that this philosophy alone represents the central message or goal of the New Thought Movement literature; if we take any dictionary definition of God’s role and compare it to that of the individual in the claims of New Thought philosophy, we soon discover that they are one in the same (i.e., humans assuming God-like roles in controlling the destiny and outcomes of their lives).

 

Most people would never openly admit their desire to become God, and yet, from ancient Mesopotamian folklore until today, examples of humans attempting to become God can be found—particularly in modern philosophy, and most notably in the New Thought Movement. My research reveals that the core of the New Thought Movement is the notion that man has the capability of becoming God, evidenced clearly through the movement’s emphasis on humans as creators of their own destiny—controlling others and circumstances through the power of thought and word—ultimately with the potential of becoming perfect individuals.

 

New Thought Movement literature written in the last century have brought huge success, often soaring to the tops of best-seller lists and staying there, ensuring their writers great esteem and monetary success. Some of the most popular contemporary works in the New Thought Movement are The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes, The Law of Attraction by Jerry and Esther Hicks, and Secret of the Ages by Robert Collier. These three books have been very influential in New Thought thinking in recent years, and they all promote the same basic philosophy that humans can become God.

The Secret is the most popular of these works, espousing the modern New Thought thesis that through the power of positive thinking, individuals may bring joy into every aspect of their lives. After being featured on Oprah and Larry King Live, The Secret topped The New York Times bestseller list, remaining there for many weeks. The book convincingly exemplifies the claim that humans are the creators of all things, controlling all circumstances to become flawless individuals. In the book, Rhonda Byrne asserts that “You are God in a physical body…You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet” (p. 164). The author goes on to state that all circumstances can be controlled by your thoughts—money, relationships, and health included. Byrnes writes:

 

The earth turns on its orbit for you. The ocean ebbs and flows for You. The birds sing for You. The sun sets and rises for You. The stars come out for You…None of it can exist without You. (p. 183)

 

Moreover, The Secret preaches that everyone is perfect, even sinless, with claims that no one can or will ever stand in judgment of us. Byrnes announces finally that “You are the perfection of life” (p. 183), and all the bounties of knowledge, discoveries, and inventions are waiting for you.

Another popular book in the same vein is The Law of Attraction by Jerry and Esther Hicks. Like The Secret, this work also became a New York Times Best-Seller and further reiterated and defined the mantra of the New Thought Movement. The Hicks’ book deduces and summarizes its teachings into twelve principles, the second of which states that, “You are here in this body because you chose to be here…What, where, when and with whom you create are your choices, too” (p. 5). However, the Hicks’ do not stop here; they assert that anything that you can imagine is yours to be or do or have, and the universe adores you; they even go so far as to say that you cannot die (p. 5). The Secret of the Ages was written many decades before The Secret and The Law of Attraction, but proved no less popular in its time. No doubt, The Secret of the Ages inspired and spawned a plethora of New Thought literature, with the same claims that man can become his own God, and does so in even more direct language than Byrne’s or the Hicks’ books. Chapter fifteen of Collier’s work is entitled, “The Master of Your Fate,” wherein he explains the difference between a successful man and an unsuccessful one. The difference, Collier says, is that the former realizes the future is entirely within his own control (p. 410). The Secret of the Ages similarly asserts that man can control any situation in his life with the power of his own thoughts. Collier, like Byrne, claims that every person has a genie in his mind, who remains constantly at his service; not surprisingly, “The-Genie-of-Your-Mind” is the title of chapter two in Collier’s book. The author concludes that circumstances have no control over man. He argues that a man never needs to be sick, unhappy, poor, or unsuccessful, and believes that within each man’s mind is the power to control these and any circumstances (30-34). These are attributes typically ascribed to God, yet, Collier is claiming that man can attain them himself.

The Secret of the Ages further alleges that humans are inherently perfect. In chapter twenty-one, entitled “The Sculptor and the Clay,” Collier retells a pagan myth about a man named Pygmalion, who sculpted a statue so perfect that he himself fell in love with it. He stared at it every day until he eventually became the perfect statue himself. Although only myth, Collier recounts this story as an important truth for contemporary man, believing that by visualizing the perfect man, one can attain that exact status (pp. 491-492). Though The Secret of the Ages was written over seventy years before The Secret and The Law of Attraction, the books have the same basic philosophy.

Despite all of the New Thought literature that praises the movement, there also exist a number of books and articles written in criticism of the movement. A poignant example written by Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon titled The Seduction of Christianity promotes the thesis that too many people are falling victim to the delusions of the New Thought Movement. The entire book illuminates one example after another of how the philosophies at the core of the New Thought Movement are convincing people that they can become God. Hunt and McMahon’s express the opinion that this is a delusional and dangerous phenomenon which mirrors Satan’s original lie in the Garden of Eden (pp. 81-82).

In an article, “The Secret isn’t the Answer to Life,” Gretchen Passatino criticizes The Secret, saying that, “you are God, according to The Secret…The core and circumference of the teaching in The Secret is egotism” (p. 3). Donald Whitney, an associate professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary concurs, saying that the New Thought Movement, particularly as revealed in The Secret, “is nothing less than Satan’s original lie in the Garden of Eden, ‘You will be like God’” (p. 2). Then in an article in Christianity Today, Mel Lawrenz argues that, “The Secret is all about the self—it’s for the self, obsessed with the self” (p. 1).

Even scholarly publications such as The Journal of Australian Studies concur that New Thought literature is, above all, promoting the idea of man becoming God. Guy Redden writes, “’you are God’ is implied in the day’s main trope: ‘you make your own reality’” (p. 101). Redden clearly contends that when New Thought authors like Byrne, Hicks, and Collier claim that humans can make their own reality, they are actually asserting that man can be his own God. Another scholarly journal, American Literary History, has an article written by Catherine Tumber, who advances the idea that “adherents of the New Thought Movement, [believe] that salvation lay in the cultivation of psychic powers residing in the ‘god-self’ within” (p. 611).

Followers of New Thought believe that the concept of “New Thought” will change as the world changes around it; in this way, New Thought is one of the most adaptable religious movements of the last 150 years. It relies on old scripture as a guide, but it does not rely on it as a written-in-stone law that is to be adhered to for all of humanity. New Thought is also believed to be a process in which new thoughts are catered to fit the already accumulated knowledge of the spiritual human.

New Thought scripture teaches that God is ubiquitous; spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, all sickness originates in the mind, and ‘right thinking’ has a healing effect.

Although New Thought is neither monolithic nor doctrinaire. In general, modern day adherents of New Thought believe that God is supreme, universal, and everlasting, that divinity dwells within each person and that all people are spiritual beings, and that the highest spiritual principle is loving one another unconditionally; our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living.

The three major, distinct religious denominations within the New Thought movement are Unity Church, Religious Science, and the Church of Divine Science.

New thought had much of its developing roots in Christianity. This was because many of the initial teachings were based on the scriptures from the biblical figure Abraham. This became a point of contention within the Movement in the years that followed. By the late 1950s, any stated affiliation with Christianity had been dropped, although Jesus Christ is still one of the movement’s biggest influences.

The two larger denominations of New Thought are Religious Science and Unity.  They differ in their beliefs due to the fact that the Religious Science denominations believe there is no central doctrine or scripture, but that it exists solely as an entity that is actively accomplishing what positive impacts it can have on its members. This is in sharp contrast to the other branches of New Thought in that this denomination identifies itself as being New Thought and having Christian teachings and scriptures as part of its texts.  These denominations use Jesus Christ’s teachings as a focal point for their doctrinal beliefs.

On their website, Unity.org, a more detailed description is given for Jesus’ place in the teachings of the church:

We believe that Jesus expressed his divine potential and sought to show humankind how to express ours as well. We see Jesus as a master teacher of universal truths and as our Way Shower. In Unity, we use the term Christ to mean the divinity in humankind. Jesus is the great example of the Christ in expression (unity.org).

The fascinating split between Judeo-Christian depictions of Jesus Christ and the New Thought Unity depiction is that New Thought depicts the perceived holiness of Jesus Christ and embraces the divine nature of Christ and his teachings without overtly expressing a belief of him as the son of God. In the same teaching discussed earlier, New Thought Movement is an ever-changing model of beliefs, which is reflected in this contrasting view of Jesus Christ with its Judeo-Christian roots.

In contrasting Unity with Religious Science one needs to recognize the biggest difference in their doctrinal teachings. As stated earlier, Religious Science does not use a Christian doctrine as their basis. Moreover, they believe that the real power of religious fulfillment is the science of the mind. Divinescience.com, one of Religious Science’s most visited websites describes it as follows:

Not a creed. Science of Mind contains neither dogma nor decree. It encompasses no system of sin and punishment, no rule of conduct, no profession of faith. Instead, Science of Mind sets forth a simple opportunity, one that offers no contradiction to either reason or common sense. Any person, by deliberately applying the basic principle of cause and effect known as Universal Mind, can determine the conditions of his or her life. Not a cult. Because Universal Mind represents an objective principle rather than a guru or a deity, it cannot dispense favoritism or judgment. Science of Mind and its benefits are accessible to all on equal terms without ritual, investment, or formal affiliation. Interested seekers have nothing to confess, promise renounce, or hand over” (2002).

Much of these teachings are based on a common sense of egalitarianism and community. Religious Science teaches that everyone is on the same level of intellectual sovereignty when it comes to processing principles seen to be universally objective.

When a philosophical movement gains the attention of millions, inspires the publication of countless best-selling books, and is even bandied about in scholarly journals, eyebrows should rise. People must examine and ask themselves: why am I or so many people attracted to this movement, this book, or this article? An honest examination of their own thoughts and extensive research of the New Thought Movement’s literature will reveal that the main factor attracting people to the movement is their own desire to become God. Patently obvious throughout the New Thought Movement literature is the permeating emphasis on humans becoming the creators of their own destiny—on controlling others and circumstances through the power of thoughts and words—and on each person’s ability to attain the status of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Byrne, R. (2006). The Secret. New York: Atria Books.

 

Collier, R. (2010). The Secret of the Ages. 1926. Sacred Text. 3 Feb 2010. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/tsoa

 

http://divinescience.com/beliefs/science_of_mind0.htm (2010)

 

Hicks, J. & E. (1997). The Teaching in Brief. Abraham-Hicks. Retrieved from http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/teachings_brief.php

 

Hunt, D. & McMahon, T.A. (1985). The Seduction of Christianity. Eugene: Harvest House.

 

Lawrenz, M. (2007). The Secret Exposed. Christianity Today. 18 June 2007. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article­_print.html?id=46138

 

New Thought. (n.d.) in The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2009. Questia. Web. 10 Mar. 2010.

 

Passatino, G. (2007). The Secret Isn’t the Answer to Life. Answers in Action. Retrieved from http://answers.org/news/article.php?story=2007050716317

 

Redden, G. (1999). Magic Happens: A New Age Metaphysical Mystery Tour. Journal of

Australian Studies: 101. Questia. Web. 08 Mar. 2010.

 

Tumber, C. (1999). Edward Bellamy, the Erosion of Public Life, and the Gnostic

Revival. American Literary History. Vol. 11.4: 610-641. Questia. Web. 10 Mar. 2010.

Unity.org., http://www.unity.org/aboutunity/index.html, 01 April 2010.

 

Whitney, D. (2007). A Review of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Biblical Spirituality. 28 Feb, 2010. Retrieved from http://biblicalspirituality.org/secret.html