My friends, the Zagwyns, are in Massachusetts this summer so they sent me photos of some Transcendentalist landmarks, including Walden Pond. They knew I’d love to see and hear all about this amazing spiritual vortex. This is the birthplace of the Transcendentalist movement and New Thought followed closely behind. I like to think of us as the New Transcendentalists.
If you attend a Center for Spiritual Living Center or follow New Thought some other way, your lineage includes a group of distinguished American thinkers called Transcendentalists. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman are among them. You have a very proud heritage.
The early New Thought writers all quoted Emerson and for many, many years, he was the best known, most quoted and most widely read of all American authors. For example, my mother could quote Emerson poems by heart.
It is difficult for us to imagine how much impact Emerson had because his ideas are all around us today and they don’t seem that original. However, he was a revolutionary influence in the fields of philosophy, religion, and literature. His ideas about finding God in Nature, self-reliance and trusting ourselves branded the character of this nation as democratic and self-reliant.
Emerson was trained as a Congregational minister but he did not believe in some of the rituals, including communion. He decided to become a writer and platform speaker instead. In 1836, he published an essay called Nature. It was not particularly well received but now it is a standard reading in college English classes.
The same year Nature was published, Emerson helped establish an informal group popularly called the Transcendentalists. This group originally gathered to discuss new ideas from Europe; instead, they became the birthplace of independent American thinking. The Transcendentalists were important founders of abolition, women’s suffrage, and authentic American literature as well as opening up traditional religious thinking.
Emerson was the central figure in the movement. During the next fifty years, Emerson wrote and spoke all over the nation and in parts of Europe. His essays included Self–Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws and the Over Soul. Our CSL class on Emerson includes these and other essays as well as some history of the era.
So many of the ideas and attitudes that we think of as distinctly American come from the works of Emerson and the Transcendentalists. It is hard to imagine a world without them. It is also extremely difficult to imagine Religious Science without Transcendentalism.
Emerson found God everywhere and Ernest Holmes accepted the immanence of God as an absolute truth. Emerson said we should be self-reliant and listen to our hearts. Holmes believed that our intuition was a pathway to God’s wisdom. Emerson wrote, “To thine own self be true”. Holmes said, “Every man knows the truth.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born 1804 and died 1889. He was Harvard educated but he urged American intellectuals to take a self-reliant attitude and stop looking toward the European past. He consistently called for an authentic American voice in literature. Emerson said many wise things, including “Imitation is suicide.”
Ernest Holmes was born 1902 and died 1956. He was a self-educated thinker who combined Emerson’s idealism with mental healing techniques. The 1937 Science of Mind Textbook is one of the most influential books of the 20th century.
The two men lived in entirely different worlds, even though they were New Englanders, because of the differences in life at their different times. Despite these material differences, Emerson and Holmes had much in common. Both were born into families with dominant mothers and absent fathers. Both had brothers, but no sisters. Both men were precocious, avid readers and showed amazing promise at an early age. Emerson entered Harvard at 14. Holmes dropped out of school because he was bored and studied independently.
Both were born in New England. Emerson lived his whole life around Boston – most of it in Concord, and that was the vortex of intellectual power in his time. His neighbors and friends were some of the most brilliant people in US history. Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Parker and in New York City, Walt Whitman were all his good friends.
Holmes chose to move to the creative center of his time – Los Angeles. His congregation was filled with movie stars, and one of his main financial contributors was the man who subdivided Bel Aire. The Institute he established included Asian religious leaders, college professors and psychologists. Holmes’s open mind blew away any narrow idea of religion. The teaching was called Religious Science because he viewed life as a whole, with no split between science and religion or the visible and invisible worlds.
Emerson and Holmes shared a similarity in temperament which was instrumental in making them great leaders in thought and in life at the same time it was a result of their beliefs. They were both happy, well adjusted, loving men. In his day, Emerson was often described as sanguine, which means he was never ruffled, and always optimistic. Holmes was also sanguine. A woman who attended my church used to go to hear him in earlier times. Once, I asked her, “What was he like?” She thought quite a while and finally said, “He was a merry little man.”
Both men were generous. During Emerson’s lifetime, he supported his mother, brothers, friends, including the Alcott family for most of their life. He also very generously sponsored the publication of other writers works. Stories about generosity abound about Holmes’s as well. They both lived well and neither was interested in amassing a lot of money. They expected it to be there.
Emerson and Holmes shared many beliefs. They both believed in idealism – that is they believed that behind every material experience, there was a spiritual cause. They believed in abundance – that is they could share their wealth, give of themselves, circulate freely and there would be enough to go around. They believed in self-reliance, that is, that the final authority in our lives is within, that we must look within to find our unique and individualized truth.
They believed in the sacredness of life – all life. Neither man distinguished good and bad aspects of life, but they saw only good. They were both fascinated by Asian religions and incorporated compassion and detachment into in their teaching. Nevertheless, they remained Westerners. They believed in the innate value of all people. They recognized that all of us have a divine origin and nature.
This is your lineage. If you have studied Ernest Holmes, you have also studied Ralph Waldo Emerson. Their wisdom is available to you as a gift from the Universe. Say thank you and accept; happiness, peace, idealism, optimism, self-reliance, sacred life, and all the other components of their enlightenment.
What would I like to accept from Holmes or Emerson?
What would more self-reliance feel like?
What would more self-love feel like?
What would _____ feel like?
Where can I learn more?
I am speaking at the Center on Sunday. Since I created 50 new talks a year for many years, I’m not nervous. I know that one way or another, I will say, “Your consciousness creates your life and you can change your consciousness.”
For example, when I retired I expected a life of leisure but I kept thinking of new ideas and saying yes. Now, I ask, “Where did my free time go?”
As we move up the ladder of life, things don’t always change quickly. For example, my life continues to attract work because I hold onto my love of work. We all have repeats of success and failure in areas of our lives and the question is whether the repeated experience is OK. We make the choice.
Our Positive Living Centers are devoted to helping people change the parts of their lives they want to change. The way we change our lives is to change our consciousness and spiritual practice is the simplest way to do that.
On Sunday, I will be as clear about that process as I can be because I know Sunday church is the start of spiritual practice for most people. There are many other opportunities but church attendance is usually the opening tool to lift up our consciousness.
What the speaker says on Sunday is important and I will do my best but my talk is only a small part. The decision to suit up and show up for church is the real starting point for consciousness expansion.Everyone who is there made a personal decision and their choice demonstrates an intention to have a better life. I discovered attending church made my week go better many years ago.
Even after I made a conscious decision to use Science of Mind in my life, I still had difficulty hearing the message. In the beginning I heard, “If you have trouble, it’s your fault.” I was so full of regret and guilt that all I could hear was blame. I must have heard something else however, because I kept coming back.
I was aware of my first real shift in consciousness when I found Dr. Raymond Charles Barker’s Power of Decision. The book was so clear that I believed I’d found the key to the kingdom. The idea that my ability to change my life began with my personal decision to do so made perfect sense to me.The message that it wasn’t God’s will but God’s response to our messages fit into what I knew about psychology and what I was learning in 12 Step programs.
Reading is a great spiritual practice. So are classes. I began to take classes and that really helped me let go of the past and look to a better future. Classes give you a chance to ask questions and get direct responses so they are very powerful change agents.
Classes challenged me to pay attention to my thoughts and helped me monitor progress. I could actually prove this stuff in my life. In the midst of a group of like-minded people, I found I could really see change in their lives. I reasoned if it worked for them it was surely working for me. The teaching began to seem less fanciful and more practical. I began to dream bigger dreams.
One major attraction for me to the New Thought teaching was that good old American value, Self-Reliance. I loved the Emersonian attitude of being free from conformity and trusting yourself. I also loved the idea of rescuing God from a human-like description and recognizing God as the Creative Intelligence in every aspect of Life.
As a literature major, the intellectual authority of the Transcendentalists was important to me. Since I already knew about Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau, and Whitman, I felt more comfortable with our teaching. And the Transcendentalist political action suited my beliefs.
We come to understand and use the teaching in a variety of ways. It has been my privilege as a teacher to see many students accept New Thought without doubt, almost from the day they arrived. More than one colleague tells me when he or she knew was introduced to Holmes’s writings it was immediately clear it was the Truth.
We are all different. My doubting Thomas attitude served me well in some ways. It has made me a thorough student and given me the ability to explain things well. It took me longer but I eventually came to a place of trust.
The Hindus tell us there are several paths to enlightenment. We know about Hatha Yoga, the physical path, but there are also paths of service, of love and of the intellect. In New Thought, we must find our own path based on our own consciousness.
Our individual consciousness is a collection of ideas, beliefs and emotions taken from personal experience and cultural influences. Many believe it also contains remnants of past lives. We are all unique individualized expressions of Life and so we all have unique consciousness.
My path to full acceptance of the teaching was based on the intellect. It was work but I had nothing more important to do. What is your path? And how do you discover it?
I believe that the best way to find techniques that help you expand your consciousness begins in your home church or center. Your will find like-minded people who share your interests. You will also find a bookstore devoted to the practice of consciousness stretching.
All centers offer classes with excellent teachers. Most offer workshops and activities that offer you chances to grow. Certainly, volunteering can help you open up in wonderful ways. Making the choice to help make the coffee can be a turning point in your life. Selfless service is priceless for expanding your life.
Wherever you are when you read this, I invite you to attend your nearest church next Sunday. Whether the speaker says anything you can believe or agree with or not, you will find opportunites there. You will find paths to changing your life by changing your thinking.
Once you begin to send lighter and brighter messages to the Universal Mind we call God, everything will become lighter and brighter. If you want to change, you can do it. If you want to celebrate what you have without listening to others, you can do that. You get to design your life with the help of the Power For Good in your life that you are always using.
What was your first step into belief in Science of Mind?
What would you like to change in your life?
What do you want to keep?
How might you begin or deepen your spiritual practice?