What Does New Thought Say About War?

With a heavy heart and prayers for the victims of the latest terror attack in London, we re-present Mitch Horowitz’s exploration of what positive-mind metaphysics says about war and defense. As it turns out, quite a a bit. Mitch’s original post is below. 

By MITCH HOROWITZ

Is there a role for positive-mind metaphysics during periods of armed conflict and war?

The question itself seems almost contradictory. New Thought and other mind-metaphysics traditions have a long history of prayers and meditations for peace. Most New Thought practitioners regard war as an aberrant departure from the higher, sublime truths and creativity that govern our lives.

But the positive-thinking movement has never been pacifist in nature. Indeed the Science of Mind symbol itself is on the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs list of approved insignias for service members’ tombstones. And specific events in the history of Religious Science point toward a role for positive-mind metaphysics in today’s struggle against terrorism.

Science of Mind symbol

Science of Mind symbol from US Department of Veterans Affairs list of approved religious emblems.

In 1941, just before America entered World War II, Science of Mind founder Ernest Holmes teamed up with Frank B. Robinson, leader of a dynamic positive-mind religion called Psychiana, to host a series of Los Angeles prayer meetings celebrating the values of freedom and rallying morale for the war on fascism.

One known photograph survives from the event, which Robinson called the “American Spiritual Awakening.” It shows Holmes and Robinson smiling at each other across the stage of the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. A packed crowd of 3,500 looks on. While not visible from the photograph, a banner draped across the stage proclaims Robinson’s key aphorism: “I Believe in the Power of the Living God.”

Holmes and Robinson

Holmes (left) and Robinson at the “American Spiritual Awakening” rally, 1941

The integrated rallies, which occurred across five days, were a stark anomaly at a time when most mainline churches remained segregated. A columnist for the West Coast African-American newspaper The Neighborhood News told readers: “If it does for you what it has done for me, you would not take a hundred dollars for attending this meeting.”

During a period when ethnic hatreds and fascist ideology were plunging nations into war, the message of plurality that pervades the surviving transcripts of the Robinson-Holmes mission is stirring. Holmes opened the first meeting on Sunday, September 21, 1941:

Dr. Robinson calls his work “Psychiana” which means bringing Spiritual Power to the world. I happen to belong to a movement called “Religious Science,” which means the same thing. Some of you may go to a Jewish Synagogue; you may be a Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, but there is but one God. We meet here today not on a theological background, but upon the foreground of a spiritual conception, the common meeting ground of every race, every creed, every color, every philosophy, and every religion on the face of the earth.

Calling their racially mixed audience “Beloved,” Robinson extended Holmes’s remarks the next day:

Now, Beloved, when the Almighty created the human race, He created black, white, yellow, and every other color which exists on earth, in one creation. He did not make three or four special jobs of creation, nor did he make several different attributes, one for each nation. He made them all flesh and blood – every human soul that has ever lived on the face of this earth. We are all brothers, regardless of our religious affiliation, our race, or nationality.

While known as a political conservative – Robinson ardently opposed the New Deal and supported each of the Republican challengers to Franklin Roosevelt – here was a religious leader who, together with Holmes, was making social statements that would not become common fare for at least another twenty-five years.

And Robinson’s statements seem sadly necessary to gaze back on today, as Donald J. Trump and other GOP hopefuls vilify Muslims, immigrants, and Syrian refugees – dividing the nation from its most hallowed ideals, all for the sake of a few points in the polls.

Robinson's button

A rare image of Robinson’s 1940 button

Robinson was tireless in using mind dynamics to combat fascism. In 1940 he offered his mail-order flock a button with Hitler’s image, surrounded at the top by the words “‘Psychiana’ Spiritual Blitzkrieg,” with this pledge at the bottom:  “Believing that right is superior to brute force, I am helping to bring Hitler’s defeat by repeating hourly, The Power of Right (God) Will Bring Your Speedy Downfall.”

Artist Tim Botta has partnered with me to revive this campaign: We are asking people to make hourly affirmations for the defeat of ISIS, for which Tim has designed an insignia – pictured below right this article – that pays tribute to Robinson’s earlier campaign. You can join our movement by tweeting and posting the insignia with the hashtag #MindOverISIS, and using the following affirmation: “I am helping to bring about the immediate defeat of ISIS by repeating hourly: ‘The Power of Right (God) Will Bring About Your Speedy Downfall.”

Art By Tim Botta

Of course, rallies, affirmations, prayers, and meditations cannot, of themselves, defeat terror or armed evil. The mind may be the ultimate arbiter of reality – but we do not, as yet, fully experience that sphere of existence. We must contend with the daily physical aspects of life, including those forces that aberrantly endanger and take innocent lives. When defensive force is required – as it sometimes is – New Thought can dedicate its power to augmenting, strengthening, and heightening the resolve of every just combatant.

Rabbi Liebman

Rabbi Joshua Liebman

And what of the inevitable victims – the dead and injured? How can their lives be honored – and their survivors comforted?

A radio host once asked: If you were the minister of a New Thought congregation, what would you tell a congregant who had suffered a terrible tragedy or loss? If some counsel were needed, I would refer to the words of Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), one of the few leaders in the positive-thinking movement who directly addressed the Holocaust. Two years after the war, Liebman said:

Mine has been a rabbinate of trouble—of depression. Hitler’s rise, world crisis, global war, the attempted extermination of my people … For those who have lost loved ones during the tragic war, all of the rest of life will be but a half loaf of bread—yet a half loaf eaten in courage and accepted in truth is infinitely better than a moldy whole loaf, green with the decay of self-pity and selfish sorrow which really dishonors the memory of those who lived for our up building and happiness.

We honor life by valuing the sacrifices that others have made for us, and the opportunities we have been granted for developing our highest potential. Philosopher Jacob Needleman once asked me: “What do you do when someone offers you a gift?” After I looked at him blankly, he replied: “You accept it!” The continuation of one’s life following a tragedy is to accept an irreplaceable gift. We have been given life for a purpose, which is: to be generative. Use your life. Go and build.

Mitch with Peale

The author with a bronze statue of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale in New York City.

MITCH HOROWITZ is a writer and publisher with a lifelong interest in man’s search for meaning. The PEN Award-winning author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, Mitch has written on everything from the war on witches to the secret life of Ronald Reagan for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, and Time. The Washington Post says Mitch “treats esoteric ideas and movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness that is too often lost in today’s raised-voice discussions.” Tim Botta’s artwork appears at http://timbotta.tumblr.com/

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