"The Law of the New Thought"
by William Walker Atkinson
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This is a plain answer to the oft repeated questions, "What is the New Thought?, "What does it mean?", "What principles does it stand for?", "Is it different from what is called Mental Science or Christian Science?". The New Thought is quite different. It is so broad and comprehensive in its bearing upon human life and human happiness that it can only be defined by its name: New Thought. Mr. Atkinson's book not only explains what the law is upon which New Thought is based, but teaches how it may be used for the greatest good of the individual.
Contents: What is the New Thought; Thoughts are Things; The Law of Attraction; Mind Building; The Dweller on the Threshold; Mind and Body; The Mind and Its Planes; The Subconscious Plane; The Superconscious Faculties; The Soul's Question; The Absolute; The Oneness of All; The Immortality of the Soul; The Unfoldment; The Growth of Consciousness; The Soul's Awakening.
“WHAT IS THE ‘NEW THOUGHT’?”
The question—Difficult to answer—The New Thought is the oldest thought—Known to the few in all ages—Found at the heart of all religions and philosophies—In the songs of the poets and the writings of the mystics—The flame kept alive through the long ages—Hard sayings and dark corners made clear—The first glimmer of recognition—A great wave of psychic thought now passing over the world—What the New Thought stands for—No creeds or dogmas—Individualism—The Supreme Power—Spiritual unfoldment—God’s love and presence—All is One—What the idea of Oneness means—Man immortal—Assurance of immortality from the awakened spiritual consciousness—Theories not fundamental—Spiritual unfoldment—Thoughts are things—The attractive power of thought—Mind is positive to the body—Latent forces to be developed.
How often we hear this question: “What is the ‘New Thought’?” And how difficult it is to answer such a question. The subject is so large, and the New Thought man or woman has grown into its truths so gradually that he or she finds it almost impossible to explain in a few words just what is meant by the term “New Thought.” This is rendered particularly difficult by the fact that there are no creeds in the “New Thought”. There are many cults and schools claiming allegiance to The New Thought, who differ very materially from each other in doctrine and details, but there are certain underlying principles to which all give adherence, though stating these principles in different ways, and using apparently contradictory terms. To answer the question which forms the title of this chapter, is no easy task, but let us see what we can do with it.
In the first place, The New Thought is the oldest thought in existence. It has been cherished by the chosen few in all ages, the masses of the people not having been ready for its teachings. It has been called by all names—has appeared in all guises. Every religion has within it certain esoteric teachings, not grasped by the many, but understood by the few, which hidden teachings contain much that is now” being taught as The New Thought. The New Thought contains certain hints at mighty truths which have nestled in the bosom of the esoteric teachings of all religions—in the philosophies of the past and present—in the temples of the Orient—in the schools of ancient Greece. It is to be found in the songs of the poets—in the writings of the mystics. The advanced science of this age touches it without recognizing it fully.
It is not a thing that can well be conveyed by words—it is not easily comprehended by purely intellectual processes—it must be felt and lived out by those who are ready for it—those for whom the time has come. It has been known to the few throughout all ages and climes. All races have known it. It has been handed down from teacher to pupil from the earliest days. It contains the Truth to which Edward Carpenter refers, when he sings:
“O, let not the flame die out! Cherished age after age in its dark caverns, in its holy temples cherished. Fed by pure ministers of love—let not the flame die out.”
The flame has been tenderly cared for down the ages. Many lamps have been lighted at the shrine, and have carried away with them a tiny bit of the sacred fire. The few in all ages have kept the flame alight by adding the oil of the spirit—that which comes from the inmost recesses of the soul. To protect this flame many have suffered death—persecution—contumely—revilement—disgrace. Some have been compelled to assume an air of mystery and charlatanism in order to distract the attention of the masses, and thus keep sheltered this bit of sacred flame. Ancient writers have carefully placed bits of this esoteric truth among writings of wide circulation, knowing that only those with the key could read, and the multitude would not even suspect the existence of the grain of wheat among the chaff. The advanced New Thought man of today may pick up the writings of all ages, and will see deep truths therein set forth in language perfectly clear to him, but which means nothing but words to the ordinary reader. The sacred books of all religions may be read by one who has the key, and the Greek philosophers, from Plato down, take on another meaning when one understands the principles underlying the esoteric teachings. And the modern writers also may be read with new insight, when one has grown into touch with the underlying principles. Shakespeare, Bacon, Pope, Browning, Emerson, Whitman and Carpenter, have many dark comers and hard sayings which are illuminated and made plain when one has obtained possession of the central thought—the Oneness of All.
Down, down through the ages has this Truth come to us, but it seems reserved for this age to have it spread broadcast among the people. And yet to many the message does not appeal. Some grasp a few scattering truths and think that they have it, but fail to see the real underlying principle of Oneness. Others reject it entirely, not being ready for it. Others who are ready for it, seem to grasp it instinctively as if they had always known it—they recognize their own, which has come to them.
The mere calling of the attention of some to the truth, seems to awaken the first glimmer of recognition in them; others find it necessary to reflect upon the idea and awaken to a recognition of the Truth more slowly. To others, the time is not yet ripe for the recognition of the great Truth, but the seed is planted and the plant and blossom will appear in time. That which seems like the veriest nonsense to them now, will be brought home to them as the very truth when the time comes. A desire has been created that will cause a mental unrest until more light is received. As old Walt Whitman has said: “My words will itch in your ears till you understand them.” And as the great American transcendentalist, Emerson, says: “You cannot escape from your good.” These people who do not yet understand will carry the thought with them, which, like the lotus, will unfold naturally and gradually. The Truth once recognized cannot be lost. There is no standing still in Nature.
It is difficult to convey a hint of this Truth to any but those who are prepared to receive. To others it often seems like arrant folly. Emerson has well said: “Every man’s words, who speaks from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell in the same thoughts on their own part. I dare not speak for it. My words do not carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only itself can inspire whom it will. * * * * * * Yet I desire by profane words, if sacred I may not use, to indicate the heaven of this deity, and to report what hints I have collected of the transcendant simplicity and energy of the Highest Law.”
“WHAT IS THE NEW THOUGHT?” Let us see. In the first place it is a name by which is best known that great wave of spiritual and psychic thought that is passing over the world, sweeping away antiquated dogmas, creeds, materialism, bigotry, superstition, unfaith, intolerance, persecution, selfishness, fear, hate, intellectual tyranny and despotism, prejudice, narrowness, disease and perhaps even death. It is the wave that is bringing us liberty, freedom, self-help, brotherly love, fearlessness, courage, confidence, tolerance, advancement, development of latent powers, success, health and life.
It stands for all that makes for Man’s Betterment—Freedom—Independence—Success—Health—Happiness. It carries the banner of Tolerance—Broadness—Brotherhood—Love—Charity and Self-Help. It teaches Man to stand upon his own feet—to work out his own salvation—to develop the powers latent within him—to assert his real Manhood—to be Strong, Merciful and Kind. It preaches the doctrine of “I Can and I Will”—the gospel of “I Do.” It calls upon Man to cease his lamenting and repining, and urges him to stand erect and assert his right to live and be happy. It teaches him to be brave, as there is nothing to fear. It teaches him to abolish Fearthought and Worry, and the other foul brood of negative thoughts, such as Hate, Jealousy, Malice, Envy and Uncharitableness, that have been keeping him in the mire of Despair and Failure. It teaches him these things, and much more. The New Thought stands for the doctrine of The Fatherhood of God—the Oneness of All—the Brotherhood of Man—the Kingship of Self.
The New Thought has no creeds or dogmas. It is composed of Individualists, each reserving the right to look at things with his own eyes—to see the Truth as it presents itself to him—to interpret that Truth by the light of his own reason, intuition and spiritual discernment, and to let it manifest and express itself through him in its own manner. Such a man cares nothing for institutions—he finds within that which he seeks. He does his own thinking, and recognizes no man or woman as an authorized interpreter of that which can only be interpreted by one’s own soul. New Thought people differ very materially from each other on minor points, words and manner of expression, but underneath it all they understand one another, and a close analysis shows that they are all standing firmly upon the sound reek of Fundamental Truth. They all have a bit of the Truth, but no one of them has all of the Truth. Each is working to the Centre in his own way—along his own path. And yet, seen from above, each is found to be walking along the Great Path toward the same Goal.
I will try to give you a hasty glance at what I conceive to be the fundamental principles underlying that which is called The New Thought, without considering the side-issues affected by many of us. My explanation must, of necessity, be crude and imperfect, but I will do the best I can to make at least a partially clear statement of the fundamental principle of The New Thought.
In the first place The New Thought teaches that there is a Supreme Power back of, underlying, and in all things. This Supreme Power is Infinite, Illimitable, Eternal and Unchangeable. It IS, has always been, and always will be. It is Omni-present (present everywhere); Omnipotent (all powerful, possessing all the power that is); and Omniscient (all-knowing, all-seeing, knowing everything, seeing everything). This Supreme Power—Universal Presence—All Mind—may be called MIND, SPIRIT, LAW, THE ABSOLUTE, FIRST CAUSE, NATURE, UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE, LIFE, or whatever name best suits the taste of the person using the term, but call it what you will you mean this Supreme Power—the Centre. Personally I prefer the word GOD, and have therefore used it in this book, but when I say GOD I mean this great Universal Presence, and not the conception of a limited God held by any man. I am not satisfied with any conception of GOD which limits Him in the slightest. To me GOD must be illimitable, and all of the Universe must be an emanation of Him. I cannot accept any partial idea of GOD—to me GOD must be the ALL. And I think that a careful inquiry will reveal the fact that this is a fundamental principle underlying The New Thought, remembering, always that words count for nothing and ideas for everything, and that the man or woman who claims to have outgrown “God,” and talks of Nature, Life, Law, or what not, means his or her conception of that which my inner consciousness tells me IS, and which I mean when I say “GOD.”
The New Thought holds that Man is unfolding in consciousness, and that many have now reached that stage of spiritual consciousness whereby they become conscious of the existence and immanence of GOD, and thus know rather than entertain a belief based upon the authority, real or assumed, of other men. This God-consciousness to which the race is rapidly tending, is the result of the unfoldment, development, and evolution of Man for ages, and, when fully possessed by the race, will completely revolutionize our present conceptions of life, our ethics, customs, conditions and economics.
The New Thought teaches that GOD is not a being afar off from us, full of wrath and punishment, but that he is right here with us; all around us, yes, even in us; understanding us from the beginning; realizing our limitations; full of love; and patiently seeing the gradual growth and unfoldment which brings us into a clearer understanding of him. The New Thought does not know of the wrath of GOD—any such conception is cast into the shadow by the dazzling, overpowering sight of GOD’S love. As to the reason of GOD’S plans and laws, The New Thought does not pretend to have knowledge, holding that this cannot be known by Man in his present stage of development, although by reason and intuition he is beginning to understand that all is Good, and to see evidences of a loving, good, perfect, just and wise plan, in all the experiences of life. And having that Intelligent Faith which comes of the God-consciousness, it rests content, saying “GOD IS—and all is well.”
The New Thought teaches that All is One—that all the Universe, high and low, developed and undeveloped, manifest and un-manifest, is One—all is an emanation of GOD. This brings with it the corollary that everything in the universe is in touch with every other thing, and all is in connection with the Centre—GOD. It holds, with modern science, that every atom is a part of a mighty whole, and that nothing can happen to any atom without a corresponding effect upon every other part of the whole. It holds that the sense of separateness is an illusion of the undeveloped consciousness, but an illusion necessary in certain stages for the working out of the plan, or as a recent writer has said, “the sense of separateness is a working fiction of the Universe.” When man has so far progressed in spiritual growth and unfoldment that certain heretofore dormant faculties awaken to consciousness, or rather, when man’s consciousness has so far developed that it takes cognizance of certain faculties the existence of which has heretofore been unknown to it, that man becomes conscious of the Oneness of All, and his relation to all that is. It is not merely a matter of intellectual conception, it is the growth of a new consciousness. The man who possesses this, simply knows; the man who has it not, deems the idea allied to insanity. This Cosmic Knowing comes to many as an illumination; to others it is a matter of gradual and slow development.
This idea of the Oneness of All explains many problems that Man has considered incapable of solution. It is at the heart of all occult and esoteric teachings. It is at the centre of all religious thought, although it is hidden until one finds the key. It is the Key that opens all doors. It explains all contradictions—all paradoxes. It welds together all discrepancies—all opposing theories—all the different views of any subject. All is One—nothing can be left out of that Oneness—all and everything is included. Man cannot escape his Oneness with All, try as he may. Separateness and selfishness are seen as merely the result of ignorance, from which man is slowly emerging. Every man is doing the best he can, in his particular stage of development. And every man is growing, slowly but surely. Sin is but ignorance of the truth. Selfishness and the sense of Separateness are at the bottom of all that we call “sin.” And, under the Law, when we wilfully hurt another, it rebounds upon ourselves. Evil, selfish thoughts and acts react upon our-selves. We cannot hurt another without injuring ourselves. It is not necessary for GOD to punish us—we punish ourselves. When the race finally understands and is conscious of the Oneness of All—when it has a knowledge of the Law—when it has a consciousness of things as they are, then will Separateness and Selfishness drop away like a cast-off cloak, and that which we call sin and injustice can no longer exist for the race. When the Fatherhood of GOD, and the Brotherhood of Man, become realities in the consciousness of Man, instead of beautiful ideals fondly cherished but considered impractical and impossible of realization, then will Life be that which has been dreamt of through the ages. This Oneness of All is one of the fundamental truths of The New Thought, although many of its followers seem to have but a faint conception of what it really means, and are but slowly growing into an understanding of what it will mean for the world.
The New Thought teaches that Man is immortal. Its teachers differ in their theories as to just how and where he will live in the future, and of such speculations I do not purpose speaking at length. I will say this, however, that when Man obtains that wonderful assurance of immortality from his awakened spiritual faculties, he sees no need of worrying about the “how” and “where”. He knows that he is and will be. He has within him such an abiding sense of existence, and deathlessness, that all of man’s speculations seem like idle theories to him—useful in their place, of course, but of no vital importance to him. He knows that there are no limits to the possible manifestations of life—he knows that “infinity plus infinity” would not begin to express the possibilities before him, and he frets not. He learns to live in the NOW, for he knows that he is in Eternity right now, just as much as he ever will be, and he proceeds to Live. He is concerned with Life, not with Death, and he Lives. He has confidence in GOD and in the Divine Plan, and is content. He knows that if our entire solar system, and every other system the suns of which are visible to Man, were dissolved into their original elements, he would still exist, and would be still in the Universe. He knows that the Universe is large, and that he is a part of it—that he cannot be left out or banished from the Universe—that he is an important atom, and that his destruction would disarrange and destroy the whole. He knows that while the Universe lasts—he lasts. That if he is destroyed the Universe is destroyed. He know that GOD had use for him or he would not be here, and he knows that GOD makes no mistakes—changes not his mind—and destroys no soul that he has expressed. He says: I am a Son of GOD; what I shall be doth not yet appear; but come what will I am still a Son of GOD; what my future may be, concerns me not—it is not my business—I will place my hand in that of the Father and say “Lead Thou me on.”
This idea of the Immortality of the Soul—that Man is a Spiritual being, is also a fundamental principle of The New Thought, although its teachers have differing ideas regarding the methods and plans of the future life. To me, personally, I can see Life only as being on an ascending scale, rising from lower to higher, and then on to higher and higher and higher, until my spiritual vision fails me. I believe that in the Universe are beings much lower than us in the spiritual scale; and that there are also others much more advanced, much more highly developed than ourselves, very gods as compared with us, and that we are progressing along the Path until some day we will be where they are; and that others now much lower will some day be where we are now, and so on. This is but my finite view of an infinite subject, and I do not know these things as I do know the fundamental fact. These particular views are not fundamental, being nothing more than a dim perception, aided in certain ways from outside sources, so do not accept them unless you feel that they mean truth to you—form your own concept, if you prefer. It will not make any difference to the fundamental principle. If you have the consciousness of the fundamental principle of immortality, then theories and views and concepts are as nothing. Do not be satisfied with theories—mine or anyone else’s—there is no satisfaction until your feet are firmly planted on the rock. Then, when you feel the solid rock beneath you, you may amuse and instruct yourself by playing at building houses, which you may tear down tomorrow to erect others more in accordance with your advanced ideals. But the rock is there all the time, and you are on it.
The New Thought teaches us that there is a spiritual evolution going on in Man—that he is growing, developing and unfolding in spiritual attainment. That his mind is developing and causing to unfold new faculties which will lead him to higher paths of attainment. That the Higher Reason is beginning to make itself manifest. It teaches that the race is Hearing the plane of Cosmic Knowing. Teachers speak this Truth in different ways—using different words—but the thing itself is a fundamental principle of The New Thought.
The New Thought teaches also that “thoughts are things”—that every thought we think goes forth, carrying with it force which affects others to a greater or less extent, depending upon the force behind our thought, and the mental attitude of the other persons. And it teaches that like attracts like in the world of thought—that a man attracts to himself thoughts in harmony with his own—people in harmony with his thoughts—yes, that even things are influenced by thought in varying degrees. It teaches that “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he,” and that a man may change, and often does change, his entire character and nature by a change of thoughts, an adjustment of his mental attitude. It teaches that Fearthought and Worry and all the rest of the foul brood of negative thoughts attract thoughts, people, things, from the outside, and pull the man down to the level of his thought-pictures. And on the contrary a man may, by right thinking, raise himself from the mire, and surround himself with people and things corresponding to his thoughts. And it teaches that thoughts take form in action. And it teaches that the Mind is positive to the Body, and that a man may become sick or well—diseased or free from disease, according to his thoughts and mental attitude. It teaches that the mind of Man contains latent forces, lying dormant, awaiting the day of their unfoldment, which may be developed and trained and used in a wondrous way. It teaches that Man is in his infancy regarding the proper use of his mental powers. These things and similar things, expressed in scores of forms, according to the views of the respective teachers, are fundamental principles of The New Thought.I can do no more than merely mention these things now. In the succeeding chapters, I will try to go into each phase of the subject a little more fully, but it would take many volumes before I could feel that I had even penetrated beneath the surface of the subject. And then remember that I am only giving you my little bit of the Truth. Every other man or woman has his or her bit, so that my portion is merely as a grain of sand on the seashore.
The New Thought is not a “fad” as many have supposed, although many have made it the amusement, of an idle hour. It is no new religion as others have thought—it contains within it only that which may be found in all the great religions of the world, but generally so safely hidden that only those who looked carefully could find it. It is no new religion, but it will help to throw new light on every religion, or shade of religious thought. It has no churches or temples—it allows its followers to worship in the temples of their fathers, or, if they prefer, in the open field, on the ocean, in the forest, in their rooms, anywhere—everywhere, for they cannot escape from the Universe, and GOD is everywhere, and everyone is in constant touch with him, and may feel the pressure of his hand if they will but allow it—will hear the whisper of his voice if they will but listen to it.
The man or woman who awakens into a consciousness of the real principles underlying and making up that which we call The New Thought, will have found a peace which exceeds in comfort anything that has ever been known—will feel a joy beyond anything that has ever been dreamt of—will have acquired a knowledge exceeding all that has ever been deemed possible. Words cannot express this thing—it must be seen, felt, lived, to be realized.
This, my friends, is my answer to the question, “What is The New Thought’?” That it does not answer it, I am fully aware, but I also see that one cannot answer such a question in a few words—perhaps it could not be fully answered in as many volumes as I have used sentences. It is too great. It means something to every man or woman who is attracted to it—each takes from it that suited to his needs, and leaves the rest for others. And draw from it what we may, the supply is never diminished. And so, it seems, I have merely answered the question by telling of a little that The New Thought means to me—just a little. So if it means something else to you—something more than I have mentioned—something different from what I have stated—do not blame me or yourself—we simply see that which we have drawn from the spring in our little cup—the spring is still full and constantly flowing. Your cupful is as good as mine—mine as good as yours—so let us not dispute about it—nor yet compare cupfuls. Let us, instead, drink of the sparkling, life-giving fluid that has been given us, and shout aloud that others who are thirsty and are seeking the spring, may know that it is found. It is not yours, nor mine—it is the property of All.
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