There are many authors-teachers who have recently gained popularity in the western culture. People like Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle and even Joel Osteen are professing a non-traditional line of thinking. New Thought, New Thought-Ancient Wisdom, Creative Thought, New Age, all these names and others are labels for varied but similar names for this new line of thinking and philosophy.
I am often asked what I believe. Having been raised and formally trained in a New Thought tradition, I am often asked, “What is New Thought”?
The question behind the question is “How is New Thought different from (modern) Christianity? I use modern Christianity to differentiate “original” Christianity as many who are in the New Thought movement believe their thinking is closer than some Christianity as it is practiced today. However, the Judeo/Christian matrix is a prevalent line of belief here in the West and is a dominant fabric in the ideas of western ideas and society.
So the question is, really, how does the New Thought line of thinking compare to the western beliefs of Christianity?
Almost all traditions today have an underlying tenant of either:
1. The deity is separate from life forms and the physical universe, which is duality; or
2. The deity is not separate from life forms and the physical universe. This is the idea of oneness.
This may seem like a small difference at first, but it has huge implications:
• In New Thought, the deity, God, is pure consciousness and the life force of all things and creatures instead of an anthropomorphic figure. In the ancient Indian Sutras an example of this is “I am the liquidity in water” (where I is God).
• In New Thought, all life is an “emanation” of the divine and therefore not separate from it. In western thought, all creation is made by God but is something different, less than and separate from God.
• In New Thought, praying is changing one’s own consciousness and evoking the divine power within to achieve a desired result, rather than begging and beseeching of a deity to be worshiped.
• The attributes of the divine are the same attributes naturally and inherently found in man/woman. Since we are created or emanated from the creative principle, we, too, have the same creative principle within us. Our creative power is used either consciously or unconsciously and is powerful to the degree that we are aware of it.
• Because of the idea of oneness, the relationship with God is a relation to the divine within oneself. The path to God is not through an intermediary but the greater and greater realization of the divine self within. We express God to the extent we are aware of God in and as us.
• In new thought, life is eternal. This is because since the essence of what/who we are, is consciousness, therefore, consciousness cannot be destroyed and is eternal, the same as the divine. Other traditions have numerous ideas on life and death, and the afterlife/afterlives.
In New Thought, the creative power within us is referred to as the Law of Cause and Effect or more recently, the Law of Attraction. Instead of asking/praying to a deity/deities to give us something, the Law of Attraction states that what we think, believe, or embody, will be created in our lives.
The Law of Attraction provides for self-responsibility. In other words, we create everything in our lives either consciously or unconsciously (by default). This is in contrast that everything is created by God and only if we “pray right,” accept Jesus as the intermediary by which to contact God, and act according to a particular interpretation of scripture, will our prayers be answered. To many, self-determination via the Law of Attraction is a very exciting proposition but sometimes an individual may be overwhelmed by all that is created in one’s life. Taking responsibility for everything in our lives is a large step to mastering the Law of Attraction.
Certainly, this is only a brief comparison and is not intended to be a complete or exhaustive assessment. I trust that it will help make clear what some of differences are in the two beliefs.
— Jim Hatton is the author (under the name James Apollonius Alan) of “A Spiritual Master’s Guide to Life” available on Amazon.com.