Class Lessons

open005I taught my first New Thought History class on Thursday. My students are eager to learn.  I’d like more of them because I think our history is absolutely fascinating. The history is also helpful when your relatives ask those silly questions.

We’ve all had friends and relatives who asked questions that tell more about their bias than we could guess.

I’ve heard many questions in the last 25 years. Here are three favorites I can remember. “How can an intelligent woman fall for that hokum?” “How can I visit your church when I’m Jewish?” “What do you guys think about having sex outside of marriage?”

There is  one question that still tangles me up – “Is New Thought Christian?”

Do you get tongue tied when someone asks you if your church is Christian? Do you think Unity and Divine Science answer yes faster? I think it is possible because they were formed in the 1880’s. Religious Science came about 50 years later and I think the answer is more apt to be, “Yes and no.” It may also be a longer response.

Some New Thought people think we are practicing original Christianity because we teach what Jesus taught. On the other hand, some Fundamentalist Christians are certain our answer has to be no. They believe we can’t qualify as Christian because we ignore some of the Bible stories and don’t talk about sin.

New Thought is usually classified as Christian in encyclopedias because it evolved from earlier Christian denominations. That’s what the encyclopedias believe – but not all New Thought followers agree. Some don’t believe they are Christians. I think people in Unity, and Divine Science are more apt to say yes to the question because they were created in the 1880’s.

The founder of Religious Science, Ernest Holmes, was a prodigious student of religious and philosophical ideas. He gives a yes and no answer on PG 4 of our class textbook, The Philosophy of Ernest Holmes. He writes, “…we have roots in a very deep antiquity. …it has drawn its knowledge from all sources; it is not just a Christian philosophy, although it is a Christian denomination.

All New Thought denominations believe that everything comes from God. There is no split between body and soul. There is no battle between light and darkness or good and evil.  The belief in Oneness puts us in a rare stream of mystical teachers (including Jesus) that are all recorded and respected.

New Thought, whether the most modern aspects of Religious Science, or the most Christian aspects of Divine Science, are based on a mystical worldview. In other words – we may or may not be Christian but we are all mystics.

We are called mystics and we are also called idealists. Whether the word is mystic or idealist, we believe that everything comes from One Source – Spirit – the formless or invisible part of life. Although Holmes used his studies of many religious and philosophical sources to create the Science of Mind teaching, he never strayed from the idea of Oneness.

All New Thought uses this Oneness as a tool for spiritual healing. It was built on the knowledge of God or Spirit’s to heal. We recognized the mind/body connection early.

There is no sin in New Thought. We know that in the original Aramaic of the Bible, the word that is now translated as sin meant, “missing the mark.” Or error. We believe that people make mistakes but the essential nature or Spirit is never harmed and we will all eventually come to know ourselves as perfect, complete and whole. We also believe that life is eternal and consciousness continues to exist after what we call death or transition.

Technically, we don’t pray to rescue the sinner or heal the sick. We pray to see the spiritual Truth. The Truth we pray for is already there and we want to realize it through our prayer.  Holmes says the result is not a healing but a revealing.

That is an important thing for practitioners to remember when they pray for others. They are working to know the person they pray for is already perfect, whole, and complete at the level of Spirit. As they pray, the Truth becomes apparent. That is both the mysticism of the Christian mystics and the idealism of the Greek Idealists.

Next week we will explore the Greek roots of New Thought in my class. We will learn about Greek philosophers such as Plato and his follower, Plotinus. My students will also learn that Ernest Holmes had a  brilliant, and inquisitive mind. He was a self-directed student and he knew his classical history.

Holmes knew and loved Emerson who also embraced Oneness and idealism. But that was not all of the story. Emerson and Holmes also knew about Asian religions and that led them to a world view we call mysticism. Mysticism also runs throughout the history of Christianity. Leaders like St. Augustine, Hildegard of Bingham and Meister Eckhart  gain fame as New Thought grows.

Emerson was greatly influenced by the work of one Christian mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg. He also read  some basic Asian texts. Scholars trace the influence of Hindu and Buddhist texts that on  Clipper ships into the Boston harbor.

This history makes a pattern of Love and Light. Holmes loved Emerson and he also loved the Bible. He ended up with a mystical teaching that was influenced by classical philosophy, Asian religions, and the teachings of Jesus. When Holmes found the work of Thomas Troward, an Englishman who lived in India most of his life, he was able to build a powerful intellectual structure for spiritual healing. He called it Science of Mind.

Some people are disappointed when they learn that Ernest Holmes was basically a synthesizer. He didn’t receive his message from on High. He collected the best from myriad sources and had the ability to weave it together. Actually, I believe that the fact that Holmes took from a variety of sources makes his genius even more rare. The combination of his studies, seasoned by his unique, inventive and magnificent mind, created a thoroughly modern religion.

We are studying the strands of wisdom that Ernest Holmes knit into this wonderful, teaching, philosophy, and religion. I’m confident my students will gain a great respect for using the Science of Mind in their lives.

I’m not so sure it will give them a snappy answer to that Christianity question. But is it important to ask  questions about classifying a belief system?  Isn’t it better to ask, “How do I use this wisdom?”

Ask Yourself

If I believe I am perfect, how will that look?

If I let go of feeling wrong, guilty or sinful, how will that look? Feel?

Do I have any special sources for my beliefs?

Do I have special stories about my beliefs?

What would I like to know more about?


9 Comments on “Class Lessons”

    • Jane Claypool says:

      Thanks for your kind word. I have been learning this stuff for many years now and I continue to be impressed. I also continue to learn.
      Love, Jane

  1. Jana says:

    Excellent, thank you for sharing. Our history is not only foundational in terms of understanding,
    But I also thinks it reconnects us in our daily ability to embody these principals.

  2. Jane Claypool says:

    Yes, Jana,

    I think it is very enlightening to look at how we came into being. I wish we all had a grand sense of our history and I think it is possible if we talk about it more. We are standing on the shoulders of some wonderful giants. Margaret Fuller is my favorite. Love,

  3. Dr. Jane,

    Great post! As you know from our offline discussions, I believe it is important for ministers to have this question resolved in their own minds. For me, the answer is an undisputed YES – Science of Mind is absolutely a Christian teaching, a progressive, and as you say mystical teaching. The numbers don’t lie. Of all the scriptures quoted in the Science of Mind, 775+ are from the Bible, 8 are from other scriptures.

    If you check out the New Thought family tree from where Ernest Holmes came from you will find that every single one of his predecessors was Christian. It is hardly a synthesis of all the world’s major religions. That is New Thought folklore! Ernest Holmes synthesized many ideas – most of those ideas were from Christian sources. I encourage everyone to simply do the math and do some of what in academia is called “critical thinking” of the material. Don’t just take what people say at face value because they are great spiritual salespeople.

    More information on where I get this stuff and where Ernest Holmes got this stuff are in my publications.

    Where’d He Get That? A Biblical Cross-Reference to Ernest Holmes’ The Science of Mind, With foreword by Rev. Dr. Jane Claypool. Peace Center Publishing, 3rd Edition, 2012.

    Ernest Holmes: Mind Mapping the Genius of a New Christianity, original research paper presented at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary Colloquium 2010, Miami Gardens, FL.

    Many blessings on your thoughtful column for ministers and teachers of the Science of Mind!

    Rev. Margo Ruark
    Berwyn, IL

    • janeclaypool says:

      Dear Margo,
      Thanks for your comments! It is always good to find your opinions agree with those from the leading expert on Holmes’s quotes sources. I want to take a moment and tell everyone who reads this what a fine book your Where’d He Get That?book is. I continue to believe that every minister should have a copy of it and I’m glad you reminded me. I fully intended to write about your book in this post and then my good intentions ended up on the cutting room floor. All writers understand the pain of not getting the credit he or she deserves! You do indeed deserve a lot of credit for that piece of scholarship and I hope you will do more books of this type. As far as I know, you are the only true researcher among us. We are happy to have you and your book and your hard working dedication. Love, Jane

      • Thanks Dr. Jane, I wasn’t fishing for compliments exactly.,,and I totally accept!!! I appreciate good research and encourage more of it in the field. the only place I know of that encourages and shares scholarly New Thought research openly is the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary in Miami Gardens, FL. It is run by people with real Doctorate degrees from academia who have a different level of critical thinking and appreciation for scholarship and for making original contributions to the body of knowledge. I was blessed to be on the faculty of JCTS for two years.

        I would be happy to mentor those who may be interested in pursuing serious scholarship within our organization. I get especially passionate about this issue when people who ought to know better make an offhand reference like “Emerson once said” or “studies have shown”….like “who’s gonna challenge that?” Geeks like me do! I’ll ask you for the source right then and there, if you blank out, I’ll go home and look it up! If I can’t find it, your credibility rating drops 5000% in my book.

        By the way, Where’d He Get That? is also now on the recommended reading list of the Holmes Institute’s ministerial program for the Centers for Spiritual Living.

  4. Ann Ryan says:

    Fascinating stuff. I am always amazed at your ability to communicate these wonderful teaching. Tons of love, Ann

  5. Jane Claypool says:

    Thanks Ann,
    I long ago decided my best writing capability is my ability to synthesize ( not as good as E. Holmes, of course), but I do have a 7th grade teacher’s skill to rely upon and I am grateful or that.

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