New Thought Editorials > Three Early New Thought Heroes

 

Summer 2015

Three Early New Thought Heroes

During this hundredth anniversary celebration of INTA, we can appropriately give attention to three New England figures from early New Thought history who tend to get overlooked today because they did not found churches or denominations. Horatio W. Dresser was an honorary president at the second Congress in 1916, and Henry Wood (1834-1909) spoke at the 1899 convention of INTA’s predecessor, the International Metaphysical League. The third figure was New Thought’s fountainhead, P. P. Quimby, without whom there would be no Emma Curtis Hopkins and no New Thought movement.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a Maine clockmaker who held two patents attesting to his interest in science, became interested in mesmerism, the newest scientific wrinkle of the day. He found that he was good at it, and successfully healed thousands of people, but he also found that the explanation he had been given did not match what was actually going on with his patients. The problem, he learned, was with the toxic beliefs that patients had picked up from individuals that Quimby called “priests and doctors”. “My explanation”, he stated, “is the cure.” This applied to physical ailments as much as to mental illnesses. Quimby, a Universalist, had studied the Bible thoroughly but went through it again in an effort to understand how people were distorting its teachings and falling ill as a result. More information is available at www.ppquimby.com, the most authoritative source for Quimby’s work.

Julius Dresser and Annetta Seabury were two former Quimby patients who met in Quimby’s offices, fell in love, and married. Their eldest son, Horatio, was the first baby born in the New Thought movement. Horatio, who earned a Harvard Ph.D. in philosophy, became the first New Thought historian with the publication of A History of the New Thought Movement (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1919). Dresser, Henry Wood, and others, were instrumental in founding the Metaphysical Club of Boston, which was the first permanent New Thought club. Horatio Dresser and Henry Wood were singled out for praise by William James as the outstanding writers in a field which James otherwise considered “moonstruck”. Dresser and Wood were both prolific and popular authors.

Henry Wood (1834-1909)—include his dates if you do an online search for him—was a highly successful businessman until he suffered what would probably be called a nervous breakdown and had to retire early. After a year or so of fruitless seeking for a cure, he somehow came upon New Thought teachings and recovered fully. He spent the next twenty years or so speaking and writing ten books about New Thought, books that sold in the tens of thousands. His best-known and probably most helpful book is his flagship volume, Ideal Suggestion Through Mental Photography (1893). All his books are available at no charge in pdf form online, and more information is available at http://www.neweverymoment.com . Click on the Henry Wood (1834-1909) tab.

My household Philosopher, C. Alan Anderson, Ph.D., wrote his doctoral dissertation in philosophy at Boston University, titled Horatio W. Dresser and the Philosophy of New Thought, including much material on P. P. Quimby. The dissertation, including numerous additional appendices, under the title Healing Hypotheses, is available at no charge from http://www.ppquimby.com/anderson/healing.htm, the amazing site dedicated to research on Quimby, “the father of New Thought”. Alan was an ordained minister of the Quimby Memorial Church and would have rejoiced to see the hundredth anniversary of INTA, to which he made numerous contributions over the years.

As we joyfully celebrate 100 years of INTA and even longer years of New Thought, looking forward to soaring ever higher in consciousness, it is also fitting to look back with gratitude at our solid roots, making sure that we stay on course so that we don’t get carried away and fly so high that our wings melt! The three pioneers mentioned here were very reasonable, practical men who also learned to help others toward healing and to teach them to fly in spirit.