New Thought Editorials > The Red Sea Place


Summer 2005

The Red Sea Place

Former Notre Dame philosophy professor Tom Morris, author of a new Nightingale-Conant CD album titled The Seven Greatest Success Ideas as well as a book titled True Success, is most famous for having made philosophers out of the entire Notre Dame football team when they attended his popular Philosophy 101 course. He accomplished this near-miracle by having a clear goal of excellence in teaching a subject about which he is passionate, followed up with perseverance, flexibility, and an enormous sense of humor. He held extra study sessions for students who were "below C-level," hanging in with them until they succeeded. He speaks and writes about these and other qualities of good character, qualities that are common to successful people in all walks of life.

New Thought is sometimes referred to as "a philosophical/religious movement." The very mention of philosophy—let alone religion—is enough to send some New Thoughters screaming from the room. But it is from philosophers that we receive explanation and support for many of our basic New Thought character-based principles, one of the most important of which is perseverance.

Annie Johnson Flint, a nineteenth-century Christian poet, in a poem sometimes attributed to early New Thoughter Ella Wheeler Wilcox, wrote,"Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life/Where, in spite of all you can do,/There is no way out, there is no way back,/There is no other way but through?" All of us have encountered those Red Sea periods where we must just "keep on keeping on." Whether it is an onerous physical chore (we are in the process of cleaning out two large, filthy, jammed-full storage spaces that we are picturing as empty and clean), a chronic health challenge, or a mental problem that we can’t quite picture as solved; sometimes perseverance is the only approach at the time.

One-trial learning can be great—and if you don’t believe it is possible, remember Mark Twain’s cat who sat on a hot stove lid! Unfortunately, it’s not altogether common. Typically, it takes many repetitions, much practice, much rereading of New Thought writings, before the concept really becomes part of us. Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore may have had an instant revelation when she encountered the principle "I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness," but it took two years of dedicated practice before she was completely healed of her supposedly hereditary infirmity.

Not only must we persevere; we must be flexible enough to try another tack (reset the sails, for you landlubbers) when the first one doesn’t work. Wilcox did write, "One ship drives east and one drives west/By the self-same winds that blow,/’Tis the set of the sails and not the gales/ Which tells us the way to go." We keep sailing toward our destination even though we have to change tack a number of times. Morris uses as an analogy the goal of climbing the highest hill around, then after climbing Hill A, discovering that Hill B is even higher. It may be tempting just to just stay on Hill A and stagnate, but that was not the goal. Yet to climb Hill B means that you must first go downhill, seemingly in reverse from your climbing goal.

The secret that New Thought teaches is to continually picture the port, the ultimate destination, rather than dwell on the wind and waves that may loom as seeming obstacles. The sailing vessel makes use of the wind, and if it dies, we get out a paddle or turn on the engine. In any case, keep your attention not on the obstacle, but on the opportunity, your eyes on the prize.