The Roads to Truth Preface

I first encountered New Thought, though I didn't know it by that term, about twenty-five years ago during a particularly depressing period of my life. A friend gave me some audio tapes that were intended to pick up my spirits. I listened to them repeatedly during my daily walks to my university classes and gradually integrated into my psyche the ideas presented. Among many other things, the tapes taught me that the only limits are the ones I impose on myself and that my inner thoughts play an integral role in my outer experience. As it dawned on me that I alone was responsible for my moods, my depression began to lift. In time, I became aware that my daily regimen was strengthening and healing both my soul and body. 


At that point I had been on what I called My Quest for several years. Consumed with finding the truth about God, I enrolled in a philosophy class called "Faith and Reason," an exploration of the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God. I had no inkling of the chaos this choice would produce in my soul.

Having difficulty early in the quarter with an assigned paper, I arranged to speak to my professor. To my comment concerning a belief in God he incredulously responded, "You still believe in God? Why?" I was not sure what to say. I went home and began to think. I had often questioned the truth of different religious denominations but had never questioned the truth of God. Why? I suppose it was because I grew up with God. There was never a time that I wasn't exposed to the truth of the existence of God. I realized the importance of questioning this belief. In fact, it was imperative that I question where this belief came from and why I believed. At that point I made the philosophically-skeptical move of suspending all my beliefs about God.

I truly no longer knew if there was a God, but, as do all rigorous skeptics, I continued to question. I spent about a month in this skeptical place, searching my soul, my mind and my memory. I remembered incidents from the distant past--times when I felt I had received answers to my prayers and more recently, when I believed that God had carried me because I hadn't had strength of my own to sustain me. I decided that yes, there is a God, but I realized that I no longer had a belief as to exactly what God is. I could no longer accept a God who set up a narrow way that few are able to find, as the Bible says and as many religions teach, and then sentences to hell, purgatory or a lower kingdom of heaven those who do not find it. I could not accept a vengeful, angry God so easily hurt by his children's mistakes (sins) that he would punish them with everlasting damnation. I could, however, accept a loving God who cares about his children, and gently guides them, talks to them, listens to them, and provides for their needs. A God who would joyously welcome them back into its presence.

It was clear that this God was not the God taught in the various Christian churches I had attended. As I no longer felt connected to the people or the teachings of the church I had been attending, I was for the first time in my life without a church and a religion. But I did have God. I put church behind me and withdrew into my college studies.

I spent the next 18 months or so focusing on school, my social relationships, my children, and my psyche. As I processed what I believed about God and organized religion, I became increasingly convinced that somehow God and humanity are integrally connected. My quest then became one of finding the truth about that connection.

During this time a college friend invited me to visit his church, and I accepted. I went with him a few times, but while I enjoyed the messages, the service as a whole lacked the spirit and life I had felt at the evangelical churches I had attended. During one service the guest speaker, a minister at our city's sole African-American Baptist church, invited the congregation to visit. My friend and I accepted that offer, and, along with my daughter, found ourselves the only white people in attendance. It was just like I had seen in the movies--lots of beautiful voices joyfully singing songs of praise to Jesus and audience participation by way of numerous shouts of "Amen, brother!" Though I enjoyed the service, I felt like an outsider and could not see myself attending on a regular basis. I again felt a familiar disillusionment, and so once more I put church into the back of my mind. It wasn't long, though, before the song of the Eternal Voice that Ernest Holmes speaks of began echoing loudly through my being. My spiritual life again became my priority.

It was now 1990. In the midst of completing a degree in philosophy I had a wide range of classes from which to pick. I have no memory of what prompted me to sign up for a class on Taoism. In retrospect, I credit inspiration, for the resonance I felt with this philosophy stimulated me to continue my quest for God, eventually leading me to New Thought.

I began questioning again and was consumed with knowing the truth about God and about my relationship to God. Is there a God? If so, is God a He, a She, or an It? the Universe, an energy, or The Force of Star Wars? Is there more than one God? Is God personal or impersonal? What are the characteristics of God? Does God care about me, about the people of our world, about the world itself? If so, how can He/She/It allow such horrible things to take place? If God created everything that exists and God is Love, then how can evil exist? Who was I? How did I fit into the scheme of things? Was I a child of God, in the sense that God is my Father in Heaven? Was I just one of God's myriad creations, one of the ten thousand things, as taught in Taoism, or did I evolve from lower forms as Darwin thought?

Being without a church or support group for a couple of years had been acceptable, but sometime during the summer of 1990, I became aware that a listlessness had been building for some time and determined it was a symptom of an inner emptiness. There seemed to be a spiritual hole in me that badly needed filling. At times I missed the spirit and the atmosphere of my previous church, but as I no longer accepted their fundamentalist teachings, I knew that I would not feel comfortable attending.

So, I decided to go church shopping. Because of the radical changes I had made in my beliefs, I was certain that no traditional Christian church would fill my needs. I also was fairly certain I would not find a church that taught Taoism but hoped to find something I could resonate with in some way. I got out the Yellow Pages and began looking through the listings. I ran across the name of a church I had never heard of before--the Church of Religious Science--and called the number listed. I asked the man who answered if the church was a Christian church and what they believed. I became progressively excited as he answered my many questions, for he described exactly what I, through my many studies, had come to believe. I had again encountered New Thought.

Over the next twelve years I attended several different New Thought churches on a regular basis and read numerous books of a New Thought bent. After studying these numerous works and attending Science of Mind classes at one of the churches, I became increasingly interested in the origin of New Thought's various principles. To my mind, a church needs to be based on some sort of authority. The New Thought churches I attended were not Christian per se, though they talked about God and Jesus. But it was a different kind of God and a different Jesus than had been taught to me in the Bible-based churches I had attended in the past. Since the theology of New Thought, if it can be called such, was so different from that of these mainstream churches, I wondered on what authority New Thought based its beliefs. It felt like truth. It felt good in my head and in my heart. Still, I needed to know from where and from whom these ideas came.

I could readily see that some of New Thought's teachings were of a Christian bent, and I recognized from my college years that many New Thought ideas parallel the views of various Western philosophers, both ancient and modern. Having written my Master's thesis on Taoism and Zen Buddhism, I also recognized that New Thought contains some Eastern ideas. The origins of some principles of New Thought were unknown to me, though, and after launching my search, I discovered them in various Western philosophies and in the one major Eastern philosophy I had not yet studied--Hinduism. I found some in Phineas Quimby's pioneering work in the field of mental healing. Most surprising of all, I found that many were actually Bible-based.

Inasmuch as all of these philosophies are old--Hinduism being as old as twelve thousand years--New Thought definitely is not new. So why is it called New Thought? The search for the answer to that question took me to nineteenth century American history, specifically to the history of New England, and the beginnings of a movement known as Transcendentalism, the first American philosophy. While the term Transcendentalism is unfamiliar to many, most recognize the names of the two most famous transcendentalists--Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Even if one doesn't know that it was Thoreau who said it, the notion of marching to the beat of a different drummer is likely a familiar one.

Transcendentalism played a huge role in the development of New Thought, the founders being profoundly influenced by Emerson. My years of research also turned up connections with Idealism, a philosophy espoused by such notable minds as Plato, Socrates, Pythagorus, Rene Descartes, and many others who are generally unknown outside philosophical circles.

One of the first New Thought writers, Warren Felt Evans, refers to many other philosophers, mystics and esoteric philosophies in his writings. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, and Charles Fillmore, cofounder of Unity, the two largest New Thought groups in existence today, consider their philosophies to be syntheses of the many truths contained in the world's philosophies.

All the many minds of these various philosophies espouse what the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz calls philosophia perennis--the perennial philosophy--which, according to Aldous Huxley, is immemorial and universal. He defines the perennial philosophy as

 

the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being. The Perennial Philosophy is primarily concerned with the one, divine Reality substantial to the manifold world of things and lives and minds. But the nature of this one Reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfill certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit.

The teachings of the many minds that make up the perennial philosophy, which I believe forms the basis of New Thought, are studied in depth in the chapters that follow.

Chapter three discusses what New Thought is, why it is considered to be scientific, whether or not it is Christian, and how it got its name. Chapter four discusses the three founding New Thought groups, the reasons for their formation, and their beliefs. The reader who is familiar with New Thought philosophy may wish to read chapter one, which defines the many philosophical terms, theories and doctrines encountered on our journey down the various roads to Truth, and chapter two, which sets out historical, psychological, and philosophical background to New Thought, and then skip to chapter five, which sets out the four propositions that, in my estimation, must be true for New Thought to hold together logically and cohesively. Chapter five should be read before any of the subsequent chapters. 

Inasmuch as many of the minds we visit on this journey taught the same or very similar concepts, these concepts are discussed in detail in the beginning but are touched on only briefly later in our journey. This is not because one mind is more important than another, but because I do not wish to bore the reader with repetitive themes.

The writing of this book entailed massive amounts of research. I undertook this endeavor for my own knowledge and interest, and have not followed the commonly-accepted practice of using endnotes, mainly because I find them extremely irritating. Instead, I have noted the author or work within the chapter text and provided a complete bibliography of source materials In Appendix II at the back of this book.

This revised and expanded edition includes new information interspersed here and there as well as two completely new chapters -- chapter one, which provides further information as to the many isms and ologies encountered while journeying down New Thought's many roads, and chapter nine, which covers the unique influences on the development of Unity. Also new to this edition is a resource section, Appendix I, which contains the contact information for the three founding New Thought groups as well as for many other New Thought organizations.

It is with pleasure that I send this expanded edition out into the world.