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New Thought and AA | AA Beyond Belief

New Wine

The most obvious connecting hyperlink between Alcoholics Nameless and the New Thought motion comes by way of William James who “had discovered answers to his own melancholy and doubts about his self-worth from… New Thought teachings, which he termed ‘mind-cure’… While New Thought organizations by no means turned very giant, their concepts have vast acceptance usually society and in addition influenced early AA…. The principal profit… was very similar to this system of the Oxford Group and the claims of William James in his seminal guide. It reworked spiritual beliefs right into a plan of action that individuals might comply with for their own benefit in solving problems right here and now.”
(New Wine – The Religious Roots of the Twelve Step Miracle, Mel B., p. 105)

The powers of the universe will instantly respond to your particular person appeals and wishes.


“Thoughts-cure” is discussed at size in the Varieties lectures. James sees roots of New Thought concepts in the four Gospels, Emersonian transcendentalism, Berkeleyian idealism, spiritism, evolutionism, and Hinduism. Others see an origin that dates again to Plato’s cave, where “ideas” had higher reality than matter. The New Thought philosophy also seems to have been influenced by the works of Emmanuel Swedenborg who held the view that the fabric realm is likely one of the effects whose causes are religious, and whose objective is divine.

Lois Wilson’s household, the Burnhams, have been staunchly ensconced in this faction – her grandfather was a Swedenborgian minister.

What Is “New Thought”?

”New Thought is a religious movement, typically classed as a Christian denomination, which developed in the USA in the 19th Century, following the teachings of Phineas Quimby. It’s a mind therapeutic motion… based mostly on spiritual and metaphysical presuppositions.”  (Encyclopaedia Britannica)  New Thought is “an umbrella time period for numerous beliefs that emphasize experiencing God’s presence for sensible functions, corresponding to therapeutic or success.” (

Or getting sober, perhaps.

(a) We have been alcoholic and could not manage our personal lives.
(b)  That in all probability no human power might have relieved our alcoholism.
(c)  That God might and would if He have been sought. (BB, p. 60)

“The New Thought individual was to be free from the rules of a declared belief, as an alternative being in contact with the omnipresent Indwelling Presence of God.” (The Street To Fellowship, Richard Dubiel, p. three) In contrast to most spiritual societies, there isn’t a sacred textual content, or immutable canon. “Fact is seen as a matter of continuous revelation, and no one chief or institution can declare with finality what is the nature of fact.” (

This is not so in contrast to “Our ebook is supposed to be suggestive solely. We understand we all know only a bit. God will continuously disclose more to you and to us.” (BB, p. 164) AA shouldn’t be frozen in 1939.

In concept, at the least.

For a relatively small group, New Thought has experienced a lot fragmentation. Beliefs are diversified, and thus, troublesome to summarize. The three major factions as we speak are: 1. Spiritual Science; 2. Unity Church; 3. Church of Divine Science. Bill Wilson’s close good friend, Marty Mann, was a longtime member of the Church of Spiritual Science.

The majority of the remaining sects have unified underneath the banner of the Worldwide New Thought Alliance (INTA).


In 1914, numerous New Thought splinter teams shaped an association, and in 1916, put out a “mission assertion”.

“To show the Infinitude of the Supreme One, the Divinity of Man and his Infinite Prospects by means of the artistic energy of constructive considering and obedience to the voice of the indwelling Presence which is our supply of Inspiration, Energy, Health and Prosperity.” (

The 1917 “Declaration of Rules”, modified in 1919, “emphasized the immanence of God, the divine nature of man, the instant availability of God’s power to man, the religious character of the universe, and the truth that sin, and human issues are principally matters of incorrect considering”. (Britannica)

The fashionable INTA website lists New Ideas “affirmations” which embrace:

We affirm the facility of prayer and the capability of each individual to have mystical expertise with God, and to benefit from the grace of God.

  1. We affirm the manifestation of the dominion of heaven right here and now.
  2. We affirm…loving each other unconditionally… (and) ministering to at least one another.


Phineas Quimby

Phineas QuimbyPhineas Quimby (1806-1866) “a self-educated clockmaker from Portland, Maine, is usually acknowledged because the founder of New Thought”. (New Wine, p. 104) Quimby “practiced mesmerism and developed his concepts of mental and religious therapeutic, and health based mostly on the view that sickness is a matter of the mind”. (Britannica)

Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a physician who practiced hypnotism, and different forms of psychic therapeutic, attributed his successes to a natural energetic transference that he referred to as “animal magnetism”. A Royal Commission investigating the “cures” wrought by one among Mesmer’s disciples concluded the trigger to be “creativeness”.

The former clockmaker thought that his healings were not from animal magnetism. He thought he was duplicating the works of Christ, and other prophets. The Skeptic’s Dictionary agrees, seeing a sameness within the biblical and Quimby phenomena. “The facility of suggestion, the optimism of the healer, the robust motivation of the sick to be rid of their numerous ailments (lots of them psychological), the religion of the affected person in the remedy of the healer, the rituals and theater of the healing all combine to supply what we now loosely call the placebo impact.” (Skeptic’s Dictionary)

Many years earlier, the feedback of Mark Twain have been extra succinct. He proclaimed that “all the varied forms of New Thought, as well as Christian Science, have been minimize from the same material… they all do their miracles with the same previous powerful instrument–the patient’s imagination”. (Dubiel, p. 3)

Although she denied it, Quimby might be seen to have influenced Mary Baker Eddy, the founding father of Christian Science, a movement which was explosively common on the flip of the 20th century. Eddy had been a “affected person” of Quimby’s.

“Did Christian Science teachings have anything to do with the forming of AA and the evolution of the Twelve Steps? Invoice Wilson, months earlier than he met up with the Oxford Group, had learn and reread Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Well being with Key to the Scriptures within the hope of overcoming his consuming by strengthening his willpower.” (New Wine, p. 104)

Hearth and Brimstone

New Thought was, in some ways, a response to the prevailing intellectual and non secular climates of the era. It may be “traced to the dissatisfaction on the a part of many individuals with scientific empiricism and their reaction to spiritual skepticism in the 17th and 18th centuries”. (Britannica) As nicely, the “hearth and brimstone” that constituted the Christian reign of terror being foisted on nearly all of People, left an opening for one thing extra constructive.

“Man… is reared in worry; all his life is passed in bondage to worry of dying and disease; and thus his entire mentality becomes cramped, limited, and depressed, and his body follows its shrunken pattern and specification… a perpetual nightmare… an ocean of morbidity.” (Very best Suggestion by means of Mental Images, p. 54)

After which, Hell awaits.

New Thought counters with an unflinchingly constructive and optimistic view of life and its consequence. By… resigning the care of your destiny to larger powers… the believer provides the little personal convulsive self a rest.” (Language of the Heart, Trysh Travis, p. 77)

William James and Eldwood Worcester

“James disaggregated spirituality from particular theologies… and thus made it obtainable for use by anti-authoritarian alcoholics.” (Travis, p. 78) Additional, “James characterized New Thought’s highest purpose as an undoing of the fashionable norms of vigilance and aggression, the cultivation of ‘passivity, not exercise; rest, not intentness’”. These ideas invite comparison to the relief methods employed by lay therapists Courtenay Baylor and Richard Peabody of the Emmanuel Motion, which was influenced by Christian Science and New Thought ideas.

Elwood Worcester was an Episcopal minister with a PhD in psychology. His Emmanuel Motion was, at the very least partially, a response to Christian Science and New Thought, both claiming to heal numerous illnesses by Christian strategies. These are “’harmonial religions’ …during which religious composure, bodily well being, and even economic well-being are understood to movement from a personal rapport with the cosmos”. (Dubiel, p. 2) The Emmanuels tried to reconcile psychotherapy and Christianity. Their efforts in bringing “free spiritual psychotherapy” led to conflicts with the medical authorities, however not earlier than they have been introduced into contact with many alcoholics among the many populations of tuberculosis, and neurasthenia sufferers they targeted to assist.

And we’ve got ceased preventing anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity could have returned. We’ll seldom be inquisitive about liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a scorching flame. We react sanely and normally, and we’ll find that this has occurred routinely. We’ll see that our new angle toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our half. It simply comes! That is the miracle of it. We aren’t preventing it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as if we had been placed able of neutrality – protected and protected. We have now not even sworn off. As an alternative, the issue has been removed. It doesn’t exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. (BB, pp. 84-85)

The famous 10th step promises are dripping with passivity!

Early AA

Early AA members have been encouraged to learn New Thought literature corresponding to Emmet Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount and Thomas Troward’s Edinburgh Lectures on Psychological Science. Some went to the Ministry of High Watch retreat, based mostly on the educating of Eddy disciple, Emma Hopkins. High Watch was “one of the first remedy communities to deal with alcoholism solely via religious means”. (Travis, p. 79)

Richmond Walker, an AA member who obtained sober in Boston in 1942, penned a every day meditation ebook, Twenty-Four Hours A Day, in 1948, after shifting to Daytona Seashore. This guide was immediately fashionable, and it has been conjectured that there might have been a time when extra AA members owned Walker’s quantity that owned the somewhat costly Huge Ebook. In accordance with historian Glenn Chesnut, “there are flashes of the Emmanuel Movement’s New Thought mysticism scattered throughout the text”. (

“It’s certain… that the early AA movement acquired a number of concepts from the Christian Science and New Thought teachings… Did Christian Science teachings have something to do with the forming of AA and the evolution of the Twelve Steps? Invoice Wilson, months before he met up with the Oxford Group, had learn and reread Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in the hope of overcoming his consuming by strengthening his willpower.” (New Wine, pp. 103-104)

Letting Go

A elementary and significant AA technique includes “letting go”. “Some of us have tried to carry onto our previous ideas and the outcome was nil till we let go completely.” (BB, p. 58) Change by way of faith sprouts from comparable seeds. “The individual turns into prepared to surrender the previous self or the previous methods… and the solutions come. James referred to as this ‘give up’ the ‘means of success.’” (New Wine, p. 104)

“It’s not exhausting to see that this similar concept was transferred to AA.” (New Wine, p. 104) A Second Version story, The Professor and the Paradox, lists 4 paradoxes of how AA works. Number One is “We Surrender to Win”. Although Invoice Wilson judiciously prevented utilizing the precise term “give up” in writing the Massive Guide, the idea is there.

AA, in its e-book, expresses disdain for the “self-propulsion” and “self-will run riot” of their former lives, these ambitions going hand in hand with compulsive consuming. “Influenced by both the evangelical Oxford Group… and New Thought religions, AA’s created a way of self and of group loosely premised on what (sociologist) Max Weber has referred to as a ‘spiritual rejection of the world.’” (Travis, p. 62)

“Alcoholics Anonymous… is premised on a ‘rejection of the world’ …AA’s versions of asceticism and mysticism derive from… the lively and evangelical Protestantism of Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group and the passive, idealist, harmonial optimism of New Thought religions… By vigorously embracing the ascetic ‘surrendered life’, AA’s turned capable of pursue a intentionally diffuse, non-creedal, and typically mystical spirituality.” (Travis, p. 70)

“To the New Thought idealist, it is the world’s false definitions of well being, wealth, and happiness that overwhelm and sicken the soul. Devotional follow – affirmations, prayers, meditations – works to loosen the hold of these false definitions on the spirit and thus restore its ‘pure’ well being and prosperity.” (Travis, p. 77)

New Thought within the Trendy World

The 21st Century incarnations of the New Thought Movement are largely business. The constructive considering that was believed able to religious regeneration, and even of physical healing by those within the Eddy camp, now seems in the self-help world because the “golden ticket” to all that the avaricious coronary heart might want.

Phineas Quimby may flinch at The Secret, or probably bemoan his lack of foresight in not himself venturing down the yellow brick street of gold ingots. The notion that constructive thoughts have an all-encompassing energy over future outcomes, provides greater than ample fodder for critics. Much more so, maybe, does the corollary that destructive considering is at the root of each tribulation.

The number of healed amputees, in fact, stays at zero.

Can anybody consider that when you happen to have the misfortune of being born, say, in a squalid Indian village ruled by a caste system, that each one it’s a must to do is consider your approach out?

In a harshly essential 2010 evaluation, The New York Occasions states: “‘The Power’ and ‘The Secret’ are larded with references to magnets, power and quantum mechanics. This last is a lifeless giveaway: everytime you hear someone attraction to impenetrable physics to elucidate the workings of the thoughts, run away – we already have disciplines referred to as “psychology” and “neuroscience” to cope with those questions. Byrne’s onslaught of pseudoscientific jargon serves principally to determine an “phantasm of data”, as social scientists call our tendency to consider we understand something a lot better than we really do”.

The “Regulation of Attraction” is about as much a regulation as AA “statistics” are statistics.

Rhonda’s Byrne’s enormously successful ebook has spawned many imitators, whereas itself being an imitation of the “constructive considering” efforts of generations ago. Napoleon Hill and Norman Vincent Peale grew out of the essential New Thought mentality. The torch of the movement’s  “spiritually-focused” facet is Oprah Winfrey, who can also be no opponent of monetary windfall, however don’t go dissing Oprah! Oprah is God!

Alcoholics Anonymous

AA’s ideas of taking the complete drink drawback and turning it over to God, is completely suitable with core New Thought considering. When one reads the Massive Guide in search of constructive affirmations, there are lots of to be found. Journeying via the philosophy and writings of William James, and in addition the Emmanuel Motion, New Thought’s rules have arrived in AA.

Phineas Quimby in all probability didn’t foresee that.

Concerning the Writer

Bob Okay. lives in the Metropolitan Toronto space, and has been a sober member of Alcoholics Nameless since 1991, and an out-of-the-closet atheist for that complete time. He has been a daily contributor to the AA Agnostica web site for nearly 5 years, and in January, 2015, revealed Key Gamers in AA Historical past In 2013, he co-founded the Whitby Freethinkers assembly.

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