New Thought is both a movement and a uniquely American philosophy, one that emphasizes the power of the mind over matter and challenges its followers to visualize their way to health and success. Historian John S.Haller’s exploration of New Thought is not only about the people and organizations involved, but the way that their ideas were embraced and disseminated through popular culture.
Haller traces New Thought back to its earliest beginnings in the American rejection of Calvinist theology, the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the healing techniques of Franz Anton Mesmer, and the visionary theology of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Identifying the emergence of the movement with mind-cure healer Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, he shows how Quimby’s ideas were spread by students such as Swedenborgian Warren Felt Evans and Christian Scientist Mary Baker Eddy. The idea that the mind can cure disease quickly morphed into the idea that the mind can cure all of a person’s problems. New job, new house, new love–according to the preachers of the prosperity gospel, not only can we have it all, but we deserve it. That idea was eagerly adopted and repeated by generations of opinion leaders, often without realizing where it originated. Haller follows these threads into modern times, illuminating an important but little-studied facet of American culture.