THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW THOUGHT
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NEW METAPHYSICAL MOVEMENT
BY EGBERT MORSE CHESLEY, A.M.
[Mr. Chesley was a pioneer devotee of the New Thought in Boston. Well informed in the history of philosophy, he saw in the central principles of the movement a "new metaphysical" statement of the best idealism of the past. Since the pioneer days he has taught philosophy in a liberal theological school and practised spiritual healing. The following is from an address before the Metaphysical Club, Boston, 1898.]
In the first place, the New Metaphysical Movement stands for the deeper realities of the universe, the things which are eternal, the things which are above and beyond the outer and phenomenal realm. The word metaphysics does not now signify, as it did among the followers of Aristotle, that which comes after physics. It has, in the history of philosophy, acquired a far profounder meaning. It signifies, and this meaning is now well recognized among thinkers, the science of real being, as distinguished from mere changeable, phenomenal being. It signifies ontology, the science of that which eternally is, as distinguished from that which merely appears in outer, temporary manifestation. The New Metaphysical Movement, therefore, concerns itself with absolute truth, as distinguished from relative truth. And it especially concerns itself with the practical application of that absolute Truth of Being in all the affairs of our daily and hourly living. It calls men back to a recognition of the grand and noumenal verities, the things which pertain to their higher rational and eternal natures.
It is a grand movement of the Spirit. It emphasizes God as the one only Absolute Reality. It emphasizes the kingdom of God to be established on this earth of ours, here and now. It calls men back to the actual, practical recognition of that sublime declaration of the Apostle Paul, "In him we live and move and have our being." The New Thought Movement does not merely hold this mighty spiritual truth as a beautiful intellectual theory to be talked about and wondered over and logically dissected; but it bends all its energies to the living this great fact of our life in God. Since we do indeed live and move and have our being in the one Infinite Ocean of the Divine Life, since we are rays of the one Eternal Logos and are in our inmost, essential being, of the same divine substance, the New Philosophy of Health believes in recognizing, using, claiming, this stupendous truth. Our true and Higher Self, then, is absolute in its nature. It is without sin, without weakness, without disease, without death.
Let the Immortal Ego know and claim its divine inheritance here and now. Let it claim its freedom, its wholeness, its peace, its power, its poise. Let us continue to think the thoughts of love and truth and wisdom, as befits our royal birthright. And that splendid affirmation of the truth of our being, that understanding and that life, shall revolutionize our whole psychical and physical nature and transform gradually our whole environment. It shall quicken all the vital energies of the body; it shall establish health and sanity on firm, rational and enduring foundations.
The New Metaphysical Movement accepts the far-reaching and transcendent truth declared by Jesus, the world's greatest spiritual teacher, as set forth in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. I allude to the truth of perfect faith in God, the truth that God is our All-Sufficiency in all things -- a truth requiring great renunciation of a personal, selfish will. The wisdom of Jesus is so deep, so high, so metaphysical in this teaching of perfect dependence on the Good Law that the Christian world has in large part failed to understand him, failed to appreciate the beauty and the richness of his philosophy of life. The professed disciples of the Master have tacitly questioned his good judgment in this regard, and have too often slurred over this simple part of his teaching as impractical, fanciful, and forsooth, unscientific. As though empirical science could judge of the divine truths of the Spirit! Consequently they have never given themselves unreservedly to this great Law of the Good, this eternal law of all true life; they have not really believed in it; they have not complied with its conditions; and so they have not been able to prove its beneficent working. Instead of seeking that divine freedom which comes through obedience, they have fallen back too often into the mire of materialism and worldly doubt.
The New Philosophy of Health is earnestly endeavoring to resurrect this sublime doctrine of our entire dependence on God, - this doctrine which abolishes the demon of fear, worry and anxiety, and which restores to the soul its true life and health and freedom in a universe of Good. If God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, it is high time we awoke to a more practical recognition of the plain and simple facts. "Do not cumber yourself," says Emerson, "with fruitless pains to mend and remedy remote effects; make first the soul erect, and all things will go well." That is, put the soul in right and true relations with the eternal reality of things, and all will go well. This is the exact, practical teaching of the New Metaphysics.
The New Thought Movement is a much needed revival of genuine, practical Christianity. The finer and profounder truths of the Christian religion have been buried away under the ignorance and scepticism, the formalism and materialism of centuries of undevelopment. The Light which lighteth every man coming into the world is beginning to shine out anew. The New Thought Movement is in the order of Divine providence. It has of course its crudities, its over-statements, its illogical and uncultured adherents, even its perversions of fundamental truth. But all these things and more has Christianity itself had to contend with. These errors will drop away as the race evolves. The heart of the Metaphysical Movement is good and sound and strong. It is a genuine fulfilment of that great prophetic declaration of Jesus that he had many more things to communicate to the world, but it was not ready to receive them; but that when the Spirit of Truth should come, it would lead the world into all the truth -- that is, gradually, as its needs require. The New Thought Movement I take to be one of these grand revelations of the Eternal Logos, ever working in human history. And the new philosophy has come to stay, for it is founded upon a bed-rock of Divine reality. It has a certain eternal significance. It really means the regeneration and transformation of the whole life of a man -- a work which goes on unceasingly with all the future progress of the soul.
The glory of the New Philosophy, its one preeminent virtue, is its insistence on the practical applicability of the great and divine truths of the Spirit here and now. Not theory -- we have too much of that -- but life and life more abundant, that is, its unceasing claim, that is its perennial aspiration. Jesus went about teaching Divine truth. He also went about healing the bodies of the sick. The two things are inseparable. The Divine truth thoroughly lived, realized, believed in, has power to heal the ills of the body as well as the ills of the soul. To affirm the one and deny the possibility of the other is to my mind a perversion of the teaching of Jesus. I take it to be disloyalty to the truth of the Christian religion in its wholeness. Mind and body constitute a unit. The physical is a continuous expression of the mental and the spiritual life. The healing of the diseases of the body through the power of mind is not done in any supernatural way, but in strict accordance with the divinely natural laws of the higher spiritual order. The call to all the churches of today is back to the teaching of the Master; back to the plainest, the simplest, the most elementary truths of the Spirit. "And the glory which thou, O Father, bast given unto me, I have given unto them." "And the things that I do, they shall do also, and greater things than these shall they do." We are not only "heirs of God" -- his riches, his wisdom, and his power-but we are "fellowheirs with Christ.
The New Philosophy of Health emphasizes the eternal reality of the spirit and the essential unreality of matter. For this it has been criticized by those who do not know. But in this doctrine of Idealism it has the support and companionship of the greatest and wisest thinkers of all time. In this elect company we find the ancient and venerable Vedanta philosophy of India. Here we find the modern German transcendental philosophy -- the richest and ripest product of our country - represented by Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Here we find Parmenides, Plato and Plotinus. Here we find Spinoza, Berkeley, Leibnitz and Emerson. To this goal now rapidly tends all modern physical science. For modern science teaches that the cells, and even the ultimate atoms, of the body are psychical in their nature, in other words, are living intelligences. It resolves the whole eternal physical world into a supersensible cosmic ether, filled with innumerable vortexmotion etheric atoms. It is now dimly discerning, through its most advanced representatives, that all matter is but a mode of motion, or lower vibration of Spirit. It even contends, with Mr. Herbert Spencer and many others, that the whole material universe, with all its splendid laws and processes, is but a vast, orderly and persistent system of mental impressions, or vivid states of consciousness, wrought in our minds by that one absolute Reality, the Infinite and Unknowable Power which men call God. So it is always. The slow-moving, cautious, skeptical, scientific intellect ultimately confirms, in its own empirical way, the high intuitions of a more spiritual metaphysical philosophy.
For some time past I have had occasion to follow the literature of the New Thought pretty closely and to watch its progress*. I find that it is more and more becoming a great and widespread movement in the interests of the higher spiritual life, in the interests of a truer and deeper philosophy of the whole nature of man. The New Metaphysics emphasizes the central truths taught by the seers and saviors of our race -- the life of God in the soul of man, the divinity of human nature, the common brotherhood of the children of God, the eternal reality of the Good. The bodily healing is coming to be regarded as secondary, the growth and formation of character primary and all-important. Doubtless the New Thought Movement will fulfill its high aims and promises in this regard more and more perfectly in the ever-advancing order of human evolution.
*Mr. Chesley was one of the pioneer devotees of the movement in Boston, when it was known as Mental Science.