Antecedents of New Thought by Eric Butterworth

Lecture 2 - Psychology

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The focus of this lecture is about psychology as the study of the human mind and the human potential. Eric says that psychology today is materialistic and its focus is on the human brain. He says that in earlier times psychology was a "science of the soul" and addressed the deep human need to fulfill an "innate pattern." He writes:

Everything that lives aims at the fulfilling of its innate pattern. Every man living has had a restless discontent that keeps him ever seeking, searching, rising, not in competition with other people, but in achieving superiority over his former self, as the ancient Orientals might have put it. This is an insight that was held by many of the early antecedents of modern psychology. They were later drowned out by ecclesiastical religion when this phase of learning and of philosophy had to go underground.

Eric praises William James and Carl Jung as contemporary psychologists who carry on the earlier study of the human mind and human potential.

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015 Meditation

Let's take a few moments now to prepare ourselves in quiet.

There's one golden thread that we find all the way through the many many sources that we search into to find the unfoldment of ideas that we think of as New Thought. This one golden thread is the relationship of the individual with the infinite, with mind, with the whole. So, we're just going to begin tonight by realizing our oneness. Realizing a sense of relationship with the allness of mind. Realizing the flow of life, of love, of substance, of intelligence, of peace, poise coming easily from within ourselves and giving rise in us to a security, a stability, a confidence, physical wholeness, and a sense of well-being in all of our relationships.

That which flows into us may be, and often is, referred to as the presence of God. It is that of God which is present. Dynamically present. As a guiding, directing, healing influence. We acknowledge this. We give thanks for it. Amen.

016 Psychology as science of the soul

So much for that. Now let's take a look at another source of what we've called antecedents of the new insight in truth. Last week we considered roots in philosophy and we saw how the concept of the allness of mind has prevailed since the dawn of recorded thought. This evening we're going to consider another stream that has led to at least has had one influence on modern New Thought.

When we use the term psychology there may be a fixed view suggesting psychoanalysis, Freudianism, behaviorism, abnormal psychology, and so forth. Quite often people say, "Well, psychology says ... " Teachers sometimes make this kind of a statement. Now I think this is about like saying, "Religion says ... " And there are thousands of religions and religious views. There are many many many variations of psychology. It's a generalization that means nothing to say, "Psychology says so and so." I guess it's just like a person needing some authority for his view he says, "Well, I read it in a book somewhere and that makes it true." Of course, you find books on any subject. It's in the book so it must be true.

Well, psychology then, as a term, means many things, and there are many branches. Certainly, most if not all, of these branches are very sincere efforts to deal with the human mind, looking at it from different perspectives.

But we're thinking of psychology in its broadest possible context, first of all. Dealing with man's age old interest in the mind. It may surprise you that there has been a great interest in the study of mind for thousands of years. We're dealing also with psychology in terms of the evolution of the idea of mind-cure. Again, it may surprise you that mind-cure has been around for a long time.

Psychology at one time was the science of the psyche or the soul. This is where psychology as we know it today began. The word psychology means the science or knowledge of the soul. The mind was considered as a distinct reality, not the brain, but the mind.

After long wavering years of uncertainty and in the recent times, because of the desire on the part of psychologist's to be accepted as a profession, and to thus move their philosophies into what they would like to accept as an exact science, there has been a turning away from the study of the mind or the psyche or the soul, which is beyond any credible inspection. And therefore there has been an emphasis purely upon the many facets and functions of the human brain. The mind as a real entity was either defined out of existence or ignored as scientifically unapproachable simply because it wasn't directly observable from the outside.

And so, psychology has tended to become, and again I'm using the term loosely, certain branches of psychology, or perhaps in modern sense the largest field of psychology, has tended to become completely phyisicalistic. A concept of a mechanical brain guiding a physical body with all of its many functions and with no room for anything extra-physical.

017 Soul as key to potential of man

Before we consider this and how it's happened, let's kind of look backwards in time. I'm certainly not trying to give any sort of history of psychology. I'm not equipped to do this and I'm sure there may be one or two or 10 or 20 of you here who may be psychologists by interest or by profession and you may question some of the kind of outlines that I deal with. I will say immediately that these are inferences that I have drawn from my own research and therefore are not at all that which in any way purports to be a history of psychology.

The name psyche, of which psychology is formed, was used by the ancient Greeks to describe the human. The soul to them was symbolized with the image of a butterfly. If you think of the metamorphosis of the worm chrysalis butterfly you have one of those imponderable, baffling, mystical, magical, delightful processes that I don't suppose anybody ever completely understands. A complete disintegration of the former worm into liquid or living water, reduced to elements from which a new structure comes forth. In the worm or the caterpillar, there is no foreshadowing of the butterfly at all. And in the butterfly there remains absolutely no remnants of the worm or the caterpillar. And yet there it is.

This, I think, gives some indication of what was implied by using the butterfly as a symbol of the psyche or the soul. The soul therefore is the key to the potential of man. We may not be aware of that, but from way back into earliest times there were many seers and mystics and teachers and philosophers who had a great belief and conviction relative to this potential of the soul or the inner man in fulfilling outward growth and leading toward perfection. So, the soul is the key to the potential of man. The miracle of growth and overcoming, the belief that man can transcend his limitations and unfold his god-self has prevailed through myths and teachings for ages on end.

018 Potential of man as fulfilling an inate pattern

From the earliest times, there's been a belief that there an urge in human nature which impels man to seek in many endless ways for something that he never fully comprehends, but believes to be a supreme reality. Somehow, he has always known that he can never be happy until he attains the fulfillment of this intangible something, which is rather complicated, but then religions have been complicated and philosophies have been complicated.

Everything that lives aims at the fulfilling of its innate pattern. Every man living has had a restless discontent that keeps him ever seeking, searching, rising, not in competition with other people, but in achieving superiority over his former self, as the ancient Orientals might have put it. This is an insight that was held by many of the early antecedents of modern psychology. They were later drowned out by ecclesiastical religion when this phase of learning and of philosophy had to go underground.

019 Heraclitus 535-475 BC The mind has no boundaries

Heraclitis / Wikipedia

In the earliest periods of history there were actually wise men who made a study, serious study of the nature of the human mind. I say in early periods, I mean we see records of this back in at least the 6th century BC.

One such was Heraclitus who was quite involved in the study of the human mind and the human personality. He said that the human personality has no boundaries. That the mind of man is involved in an all-encompassing mind. Perhaps he did not refer to this as we might think of it today, but it would seem to say that we live in what we could divine mind, infinite mind,

020 Carl Jung 1875-1961 Subconscious mind contains all wisdom

Thus, man living in infinite mind has a resource constantly involved in him, which is his own potentiality.

Carl Jung
Carl Jung

I think this a concept that seems to be articulated by Carl Jung in more recent times, who makes a statement that is one of the most exiting comments that I've heard from people involved in various fields of psychology. He refers to the subconscious mind, it is likely that he is referring to it in a much broader sense than that which we think of the subconscious mind as being the memory mind that contains a memory of past and of the experiences of our lives and so forth. Because he seems to also imply in this a dimension which Charles Fillmore would call the superconscious mind or that which opens out to a larger dimension. He says that within this subconscious mind there is contained not only all the knowledge that it has gathered during the life of the individual, but that it contains all the wisdom of the ages, all that has ever been expressed and experience by man anywhere, and all that ever will be unfolded by man in all the ages to come. [TruthUnity note: Eric Butterworth quotes from Secret of the Ages, Robert Collier]

That's rather interesting and I think it obviously is a statement that comes out of sort of an intuitive awareness of this thing that Heraclitus is talking about way back in the 6th century BC that the human personality has no boundaries.

021 Plato 428-348 BC Relationship of mind and health

Plato / Wikipedia

But we find in Plato's Republic, the classic work of Plato back in 380 BC, that Plato recognized the influence of the mind and the emotions on physical health. Socrates related to Plato the story of a charm which Socrates had obtained from a physician who when giving it to him had advised him, these are the words that we get directly from Plato's Republic, and they sound very much like something that would be expressed today in defense of psychosomatic medicine or mental science or many of the various approaches to this field today. It says,

"The cure of a part should not be attempted without the treatment of the whole. And also that no attempt shall be made to cure the body without the soul, and therefore if the head and the body are to be well, you must begin by curing the mind. That is the first thing. And the great error of our day, in the treatment of the human body, is that physicians separate the soul from the body."

It's rather interesting, 380 BC and we think that in New Thought today we just started the idea of mental cure.

Solon / Wikipedia

Now it could be said that the phenomena of mind-cure, of faith healing, of psychotherapy if you will, can be found throughout the ages in various shapes and forms, at least by interest if not directly. For instance, in 600 BC we get this little couplet or song from Solon:

"The smallest hurts sometimes increase and rage,
More than all art of physic can assuage;
Sometimes the fury of the worst disease,
The hand, by gentle stroking, will appease."

Of course, this seems to imply sort of the laying on of hands or the magic healing touch, all sorts of concepts relating to vibrations and so forth. All the things which healers, religious and nonreligious, psychic and psychological and metaphysical have seemed to imply or have worked with, and again, going all the way back to 600 BC.

022 Intuition as pulling forth the wisdom of the gods

Asclepius / Wikipedia

In early time there was an emphasis on a mind process that today we might call intuition. Education was not so much putting ideas in, but drawing forth what would be called the wisdom of the gods. For instance, Asclepius, the Greek physician and who was probably the founder of the first hospital of all the ages, used to train his disciples who were medical doctors, or what passed for them in those days, first of all by acquainting them with all the knowledge of what was called φυσικός, or the science of the physical life. Then he would train them in the art of meditation.

"Always thus that they would be still and let the wisdom of the gods reveal the mysteries that would be required." In other words, that they would seek for intuitive guidance in making what today they would call diagnoses. This goes way back before Christ, obviously. Rather interesting.

This is the facet of the antecedents of New Thought, the idea of intuition, and many ramifications of it that we will deal with next week under the Transcendentalists of which Ralph Waldo Emerson is more or less the classic representative.

023 Early role of the priest-scientist

In early times, the wisdom of the world was always in the hand of the priest-scientists. This is a phenomena that we may not always be aware of and I think it's something that we must make clear as we go along to understand some of the things that have happened.

The technological skill, for instance, of the priesthood of ancient Egypt was amazing. When you consider the temples and the pyramids and the irrigation systems that were conducted and so forth, and especially when you contrast those that were done by the clergy, or by the religious representatives, and by the military. Because military methods and means and armaments were very primitive. But yet at this time the scientist-clergy, if you will, if we can use this term, were capable of some tremendous engineering feats.

This is the way it has always been, at least up to the Middle Ages. Education and science was very closely related. All of the sciences were in the methods of research and the development of chemistry and of materia medica and all these things actually came out of early studies under the aegis of whatever passed for religion. This goes way back into primitive times where the tribal medicine man or whatever were always the ones that were involved in what passed for science.

024 Middle age split of science and priest

The interesting thing is that a crisis came in the Middle Ages, when the church, under the influence of several rather dictatorial leaders and popes and so forth, made a definite attempt to curb what sometimes was referred to as analytical intellectualism. This was considered a dangerous threat. This had always been something of a problem to religionists in an authoritarian sense. So there was a split created between the scientist and the cleric. Most of the outspoken clergy who were a part of the new concepts and many who were not clergy, but were scientists on the outside who were very outspoken in their beliefs and refused to retract them, most of them, as we've discussed even last week, wound up on the fiery end of a stick.

This tended then to drive scientific inquiry and philosophy and the kind of ideas that have led through the ages to the development of what in recent times has been called psychology into what could be called analytical materialism. In other words, it was a total reaction, pulling entirely away from anything religious, from any relationship to God or the wisdom of the gods, or the intuitive flow and so forth. With the exception of the sort of recandescence of this and what we call neo-Platonism that we discussed last week in which comes to full fount in the transcendentalism that we'll discuss next week, there was a total absence of any spiritual sense or any awareness of the psyche or the soul during this time outside of the narrow confines of the church.

The ideal of this spiritual dimension of man, with the exception of a very few, was driven underground and in many cases almost totally destroyed.

025 Paracelsus 1493-1545 Magnetism

But the interesting thing is that in the bubbling forth of this awareness in later times, in Europe, that what we know today as the field of psychiatry and psychology and psychoanalysis and so forth, with all of its many variations, that it has a common origin, at least in terms of one of the influences upon New Thought, with what we think of as New Thought today, with the ideas that we call a new insight in truth coming from a common fount.

This is a point that I want us to look at today, because while the church was condemning the intellectual approach to life, and thus burning all the bridges between the world of science, there were those who simply could not turn their back on the science of the mind or the soul. The idea as Fillmore puts it that the mind is the connecting link between God and man was too deeply ingrained in the consciousness of some persons.

There were a number of different ways in which this concept found its way to the surface and some of them, as we look today, were ludicrous, primitive, and kind of weird. Experiments that were conducted in an unusual way, outside of the formal church, and mostly even outside the acceptable fields of science, because the breach was very wide at this time.

Paracelsus / Wikipedia

One such person that we'd like to look at is the Swiss savant with a rather weird name, at least from a Western orientation or from an American orientation. His name was Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. With a name like that I think you'd want to run for cover and I guess he did, because he referred to himself under the name that we remember him by, Paraclesus. Paracelsus was Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. In the year 1493 to 1541 was the period of his life.

Now, he's a very important figure even though what he was about seems kind of weird and you might say, "What has this got to do with psychology or metaphysics?" He was a pioneer experimenter in the powers of magnetic attractions. He believed that he had uncovered the hidden power of nature and inadvertently he did open a new horizon of search.

He used a magnet to heal disease. He touched off a wave that continued for, actually, several hundred years in Europe, which was referred to as the Cult of the Magnet. They did some strange things, often with great big magnets that they held before people and they did it publicly and privately and with all sorts of flourishes and so forth, and there were many variations. He held that the impurities in the physical system were not physical, but more psychical in nature, and that by this magnetic pull which was applied in various ways, there was a method of drawing out the impurities of the system.

Later, a Jesuit priest sort of carried this concept a little farther and almost to a little more extreme ridiculous point, when he ground up magnetic lodestones and had the patient swallow the powdered stone. Then he applied a poultice of iron filings over the diseased part. His assumption was that when he held a magnet to the poultice that he attracted the iron filings and the lodestone fragments in the stomach, thus drawing out of the body the afflictions. There were remarkable cures, which is kind of interesting, but probably tells a little bit more about the believability of the human consciousness and the act of faith than the science involved. But there was actually something involved here, strangely enough, that led to some interesting discoveries of the mind.

026 Franz Mesmer 1734-1815 Animal magnetism

Franz Mesmer
Franz Mesmer / Wikipedia

The Cult of the Magnet reached its height in the 18th century when a man by the name of Franz Mesmer ... Have you ever heard of mesmerism? Those of you who had any background in Christian Science know that Mesmer was pilloried by Mary Baker Eddy indirectly at least through the term MAM, malicious animal magnetism. Franz Mesmer saw his medical degree. In 1773 he presented the faculty of medicine at the University of Vienna with his thesis on the influence of the stars and planets as curative powers.

Here was a very interesting period, and, as a matter of fact, carrying over out of this period are a number of words which we still use today and quite often the imprint of the movements of history can be seen in the development of words. Some of the words we use today that came out of this period of Mesmer's and those who sort of played with some of the concepts he worked with is the word lunatic, mercurial, saturnine, jovial, martial, and so forth. All of these coming out of the influence of the planets, the moon, the sun, and so forth.

Now it was Mesmer's theory that the moon and the sun and the stars all affected the human organism through invisible fluid which he termed animal magnetism. Certainly it's possible, if not likely, that any cures he affected, and we're told there were many, they were largely due to the power of suggestion over the patients. But eventually Mesmer made a great discovery. He discovered that the magnet itself was not necessary. He embellished his theory by transferring the power of this animal magnetism of his own body. He claimed that he was able to affect he vital forces that flowed through another person's body and thus cure them of disease.

Franz Mesmer with a patient
Mesmer with a patient / Wikipedia

Mesmer was an interesting character. Obviously, in his early times he was a sincere researcher. Like so many leaders of cults, and his work did become very cultish, he began to play god. He was influence by the tremendous popularity he received and he was obviously influenced a great deal by money. He became very popular. He was rejected totally by the scientific community as a charlatan. Though actually the King of France offered him a king's ransom if he would disclose the power or the secret of his power, which he refused to do. Thousands of invalids sought him out. He had tremendous miraculous cures, supposedly.

Eventually, in order to handle the droves of people, he became involved in a mass production that had all the appearances of a great church service. As we are told now by the accounts that are given, and I've read a number of them, with a great showman's flourish, with a throng of people sitting breathlessly waiting, almost like waiting for any modern evangelist or guru or anything else, and perhaps with whatever could be engineered with lighting or whatever was available in those days, and with whatever music might be available, there was a great emotion that was built up. Then out into the room or under the platform would come Mesmer attired in a lilac robe with a Merlin's pointed cap on his head and with a magician's wand in his hand. He would bounce around the auditorium. He would go up to people and he would touch them with the wand and he would say, "Move out. Get up. You're healed." Various other terms in French, of course, that would be commands to the person to be totally free from whatever ills that possessed them.

It sounded very much like a kind of modern healing revival that one could see in these days. Again, as I say, like many modern leaders of various kinds of cults, he began to do a lot of the things that obviously were somewhat, at least, influenced by the desire for power and for money. He magnetized water and sold it to his patients. He magnetized their clothes for a fee. A patient had only to carry a magnetized charm purchased from him and he could never fall ill supposedly. In other words, you could almost see, and I say this without in any way tending to be disparaging, but looking at the phenomena of these things, of some of the modern healers, for instance, who sell healing cloths and so forth, and various other pertinences relative to the healing process. Obviously, this is a phenomena that's been around for a good while.

027 Branching of New Thought to scientism and mind cure

You might say, "What does all this got to do with metaphysics, with the science of the mind, or with the evolution of either psychology or New Thought?" Well, it's rather interesting, I believe, and this is a point of observation which I suppose I make of my own volition and without very much support, but it's a conclusion that I have drawn and I think there is at least some merit in it, that beginning with Mesmer there is a branching out of two seemingly diverse schools of thought or streams of activity and consciousness. One of them beginning with Mesmerism, eventually going through the discovery of hypnotism, and suggestion, and a study of the mind itself and psychoanalysis and Freud, and Adler, and Jung, and as we go down to this modern aspect of psychology.

The other, which we will give some thought to two weeks off when we study Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, beginning with Mesmer and going through a number of other influences and eventually coming to Quimby in America, and like it or not, and I know some of our CS friends are unhappy that I even refer to it in this way, flowing through Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy and manner of the other early New Thoughters in New England down to, again, the influence of mental science upon this new insight in truth.

Obviously, we're not going to deal with the part that goes through Quimby. We'll deal with that two weeks off. But in the former stream, you see the students of Mesmer, and he did have students, serious minded students, because though the man had all the appearance of a charlatan, yet something was involved. There was something there. It's like the person who goes to make a study of one of the modern evangelical healers and he sees all the showmanship and all the so-called catchers, and the falling, and all the things that are involved and yet says, "But the fact is there's a phenomena here. Something happens." And so, he looks into it from a more scientific point of view. So there were those who were studying Mesmer and what was happening.

de Puysegur
de Puysegur / Wikipedia

One of the students was a Marquis de Puységur, who gave a great deal of thought and research and experimentation, and he found that Mesmer was actually creating a kind of artificial somnambulism. Which is a term that later gave rise to hypnotism. Thus, in this hypnotic state by suggestion the person accepted into his subconsciousness the idea that he could be healed.

Here we find surfacing in vague and sometimes unrelated ways the idea of the subconscious aspect of man on the subconscious mind. Now the subconscious mind is certainly a word that you run into constantly in the study of metaphysics or New Thought in a modern sense. There's no knowing when it ever started in the form in which we know it today or how it is evolved. You can trace it back to many of many ways. But certainly, we see it surfacing during this period of the studies that seemed to come out of this phenomena of Mesmer, which again, came out of the Cult of the Magnet.

Certainly, all these early experimenters were involved with the process of mind and with a kind of mind power, which though in the beginning they were not aware of and couldn't quite understand, yet it was a phenomena that they were dealing with.

William James, the American psychologist who had his own personal healing experience in the mind-cure field, and this went a long way to changing his direction. He started out as a medical doctor. He was a professor of physiology and anatomy in the university and also a professor of philosophy and the founder of the school or pragmatism in philosophy, and a very great scholar in these fields.

Because of a great deal of confusion, bordering on what probably was a mental breakdown, and the question as a researcher in what was happening in himself and how it could best be altered or healed, and showing certainly the open-mindedness of the man he gave some serious thought to what was going on in his day that passed for this kind of mind-cure phenomena that was around. And made a serious study of it and became convinced that many of the aspects of this phenomena were very valid and thereby through his concepts and his work injected into the further evolution of psychology a new dimension, which has had a great deal to do with some of the variations of psychology.

That's getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, but actually, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, William James says, "The discovery of the subconscious mind is the most important step that has occurred in psychology, opening the way to an unprecedented use in protestant countries of mind-cure."

028 Emile Coué 1857-1926 Autosuggestion

Actually, before we bring William James into the story in a sort of ideological way, we want to deal with another dimension of this flow that started out of Mesmer and came down through de Puységur and various other researchers. And probably also would include the evolution of hypnotism which is normally attributed to a Scottish research by the name of (James) Braid, but probably has antecedents to that. We come to a person that most of us do remember, if we've been around awhile, and that is Coué, Émile Coué, 1857 through 1926.

Emile Coué
Emile Coué / Wikipedia

Coué touched off a movement that swept across Europe like a prairie fire. Since he brought healing by psychological means, yet seemed to give a practical dimension to some of the more complicated ideals of Freud.

Coué made a great discovery. He discovered that the patient did not need the suggestive therapy applied by another as in hypnosis. He felt that within the patient himself was the power. That he did not need a trance state so that direct access to the subconscious could be obtained by simply suggesting to himself certain concepts and beliefs. So an idea if repeated again and again in a confident voice by the person would sink into his own subconscious mind with a healing influence on the patient.

Coué had his patients repeat those now famous words,

"Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better and better."

This was a concept that made the rounds and became a cliché really because it was so widely used and talked about. Again, tremendous results are attributed to Couéism. At one time he had hundreds of people lined up outside of his door waiting for appointments, and he would take them one after another.

Unlike Mesmer, there was no ostentation or paraphernalia with Coué. He wasn't a showman. He didn't even try to explain his theory to his patients. It was a very simple process. He just had them practice the formula. He injected into this concept some things which have become standard ideals in the New Thought movement of Christian Science, Religious Science, Divine Science, Unity and whatever you want to consider.

First of all, there must be no negatives. A person must never talk about his illness. He must not even name the illness, because this would tend to fix it in his consciousness and make it the more difficult to be healed.

There must be no future tense in talking about the healing possibility. It was not enough to believe that I will be healed. I know that I will be healed. This was not enough to Coué, because this would put the healing idea and concept in the future and it would actually block out the immediate flow of the process which he felt was there. In other words, he said that the person must accept the healing possibility right now.

For instance, to a lumbago patient he would have a person say over and over,

"My back is easier now. I am able with greater and greater ease to bend my back. I am free from any pain. Pain is gone immediately. It's gone and every moment it's gone. And I am free from all of the limitations of my lumbago."

This is the kind of thing he did. Sort of a suggestive process that he had the people deal with, and again, tremendous results. Certainly indicating a kind of a forerunner of some of the techniques and practices that prevail in metaphysics today in many variations.

029 Freud 1856-1939 Loss of spirit and soul

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud / Wikipedia

Well, we could not really go very far in considering the evolution of psychology as an influence upon the mind-cure thinking of many today, and certainly an influence upon New Thought, without dealing with (Sigmund) Freud. I hesitate to get too involved in Freud, because Freud is one that you can get into and lose your way. And a lot of people have lost their way in Freud. Freud went through many periods, but I think through Freud there was a tendency toward dealing, probing into the subconscious mind, dealing with memories and parasitic mental forms buried beneath the surface, outside of the primary fields of consciousness.

In this psychoanalysis period that was touched off by Freud, was a almost 180 degree turn away from the science of the soul where the early antecedents of psychology began. A loss of the sense of spirit of divine mind, of intuition, and so forth, and a dealing with human consciousness as a cesspool of various aberrations.

I hesitate to even refer to Freud too much, because Freud was a great influence and a great pioneer in the study of various forms of abnormal psychology, and certainly should not today be criticized just because today there is an awareness that there is a further evolution that is necessary. Both Adler and Jung, students of Freud, began a turn back again to some sort of a acknowledgement of the science of the soul. Jung, especially, gave somewhat of an acceptance to the idea of man and his relationship to the spiritual origins of life.

030 William James 1842-1910 Act as if approach

William James
William James / Wikipedia

William James then, through a personal experience that we said of mind-cure, brought a new influence into the field of psychology, recognizing the dimension of the spirit in the individual. While Freud dealt with the mind in terms of the repressions of all of the distortions and the limitations of human consciousness, William James took another approach. He said,

"There is actually more life in our total soul than we are aware of at any time. Abundant living depends on keeping the doors open to this deeper dimension of the self." [The first sentence is quoted from The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture 10, Conclusions]

William James The Varieties of Religious Experience Cover
Download a PDF of The Varieties of Religious Experience

He insisted that a variety of what might be called problem solving processes go on unconsciously all the time within the subconsciousness of man.

James introduced a concept, perhaps inadvertently, but one which obviously had been very helpful to him, which has been a basis of a whole phase of metaphysical studies. It was the simple idea act as if. If the unhappy person would simply act as if he were happy, he will soon find happiness a reality. If a person were to act as if he were a successful person, he would gradually begin to be successful in his relationships. Dorothea Brande, I think, made the statement in modern times of act as if it were impossible to fail.

This has been an approach, this act as if approach, that has been picked up by New Thought and metaphysics, and utilized, I believe, to an excess, as a personal observation. But it has been influenced certainly by the William James concept.

031 Branching of New Thought back to the spiritual

Today the evolution of psychology has made a long turn back again to the spiritual quest in nonreligious terms. Again, I must be very clear in my approach that when I say psychology I'm not talking about all psychology. I'm not talking about the mainstream of psychology. I'm talking about fringes that continue to gain momentum and to become larger bodies within the field of psychology. For instance, perhaps Jung touched off a movement of interest in the depth process of man, dealing with man in a whole sense.

032 Progoff 1921-1996 Illness as frustration of potentiality

Ira Progoff today, who is, many of you know Ira Progoff here in New York City, who is considered a leading authority in the field of depth psychology. Progoff makes a statement which I think is rather interesting, that illness or neurosis is not the result of repression as Freud contended, but it is basically the frustration of potentiality. And that the key to therapy is the reactivation of the process of growth. That there is within man that urge, that force, for unfoldment and for growth and for releasement of the finer potentialities of his nature. And when there is any kind of problem, mental, physical, environmental, or whatever, that there is some kind of a distortion, frustration of this process and thereby the key to the therapist is then to try and reactivate this process. This is a total turn away from the Freudian concept, though obviously it draws upon a lot of the influences and the research of Freud.

Jan Christian Smuts set forth the idea that he refers to as Holism which is an emphasis of the whole person which goes way way back to the days of Plato and long before him, but which is a resurgence in the modern emphasis of psychology upon this idea of treating the person as a whole person. Knowing that he has this dynamic wholeness as a potential within his life.

033 Transpersonal psychology and awareness of self

Actually, this emphasis in the whole field of psychology has created a swing back again towards the science of the soul, so that I think Ira Progoff talks about this in his book The Death and Rebirth or The Birth and Death and Rebirth [The Death and Rebirth of Psychology: An integrative evaluation of Freud, Adler, Jung and Rank and the impact of their culminating insights on modern man], I forget the exact title, of how psychology began actually as a spiritual quest and turned totally away from it, then gradually is coming back to it again.

So today we have fields, for instance, the whole general field that is referred to as transpersonal psychology and then there is the field of psychosynthesis, which probably was set forth by the Italian, Assagioli. There are various fields in this area that are dealing with the ideal of the one, of the whole person. The transpersonal self that remains aloof from the various involvements, the various roles we play, or the various masks we wear. I mention this because this somewhat is identified with some of the things we're going to be dealing with in our retreat this weekend, and that we'll be talking about on Sunday.

In other words, it deals with being aware of our self as a distinct individual with the ability then to choose between being strong or being weak, or being sick or being well.

034 Summary of psychology contribution to New Thought

But this kind of brings us up to date in terms of the flow of psychology and out of this flow there have been many influences upon the New Thought concepts that so many of us have been delighted in and helped by. A stream of thought that I believe very strongly came through, strangely enough, this very weird period of the Cult of the Magnet and Franz Mesmer and mesmerism.

Again, that could be debated. I'm not going to take the time now to get into any extensive debate on it, because I feel that it would certainly be a waste of time. Because actually in the long run what we're really interested in is an understanding of the insights of truth and seeking simply to broaden the base of the movement as we know it, or the truth ideas as we deal with them so that there at least is a sense of a little greater credibility, a little greater academic acceptability, little greater awareness that certainly there's nothing new in New Thought. As I said, next week we'll kind of get involved in the work of the transcendentalists, notably Ralph Waldo Emerson.

035 Closing exercise

I'd like to invite you right now to join with me for a moment in a simple little exercise which, I think, can help us to understand something that probably was the root of psychology, and probably indicates the most progressive wing of psychology right today without even thinking of it as being New Thought or metaphysics.

Now let's take a moment now to get still. I would like you to for a moment just get the sense that you are here in this place. That you're experiencing things around you. You're hearing sights and sounds and your mind is responding to words and verbalisms. The emotions, perhaps, are moving in various ways according to preconditioning. But there is that of you here that is aloof from all of this. There is that of you, again which some of our folks might call the transpersonal self or the transcendent self, which is more than this physical body. Which is more than this intellectual mind. Which is more than this emotional part of your nature.

Get the sense for a moment of sitting at the center. At the center of these various parts of yourself. Knowing that certainly you have a vital experience in your body. You make constructive use of your emotions. And you are very much involved in the processes of reasoning and intellectual knowledge. But in every case, you are more than this.

Just the simple awareness of yourself at this point, you begin to experience a confidence leading toward the fringes of mastery. For you know that your body then is your servant. Your emotions are yours to use and employ in communication. Your mind is yours to think through. And thus, in this consciousness you are standing on the very threshold of the ability to adjust and heal the body, to regulate and control the emotions, and to discipline your thoughts and the functions of your mind.

Adjust for a moment. Be grateful for that illustration. And acknowledge that the idea, the concept. And in the days and weeks to come, they will blossom forth into the very real awareness. And so let's just be grateful. So be it.

Now actually this is a kind of meditation which is born out of psychology in its most contemporary influences. Obviously there is no direct relationship to God in the normal religious terms. And yet it is dealing with the kind of wholeness that is implicit in so much that we talk about and refer to under religious metaphysics. Mind you that we are not in any way trying to bypass in any way the religious aspect of metaphysics, because that certainly goes without saying — it's very much a part and parcel and root of the spring out of which at least my particular approach in Christian metaphysics has come. So we today at least want to acknowledge the influence of this flow of psychological inquiry that has come full circle back again truly to a science of the soul and a science of the mind.

All right, let's go on our way tonight with just a moment of acknowledgement that we are one in the divine flow. We are one in the consciousness of that great, infinite mind in which we live and move and have our being. We are one in the process of this mind as it flows in us and through us. We are one especially in the realization that we have individuality in the middle of all this and that thereby, potentially, we have control, over our bodies, over our minds and over our emotions.

Thanks for that. Amen.