Folx with Faith welcomes and facilitates all interfaith conversation regarding the queer faith experience. However, the New Thought movement played a powerful role in the development of Folx with Faith. Folx with Faith was started within a branch New Thought movement called Unity.
Let’s explore New Thought, get to know a bit about Unity, and give context to the tradition that has been a catalyst for Folx with Faith.
What is the New Thought?
“New Thought” is a movement where practitioners are committed to seeking new thought and ideas about ancient wisdom.
The Association for Global New Thought defines New Thought as a family of denominations (Unity, Centers for Spiritual Living, Religious Science, Science of Mind, and Divine Science) practicing a unique set of principles as a spiritually motivated way of life that embraces the ancient wisdom traditions of east and west.
It is a belief system that teaches that consciousness is elementally creative, reciprocates thought, and allows all to co-create with the Divine to shape one’s reality.
In recent years, the Parliament of the World’s Religions (POWR) has recognized New Thought as a “world religion.” At the 2023 Chicago POWR — which convenes approximately 10,000 spiritual and religious leaders from around the world — New Thought had the second largest delegation.
New Thought and Metaphysics
New Thought uses metaphysics in its approach to theology as a method of applying spiritual concepts to daily living. Metaphysics is a category of philosophy that attempts to define the “first principles” or origin of things, which includes things like being, knowing, cause, time, space, etc. The New Thought branch of metaphysics attempts to answer the nature of being and at its inception focused a lot of attention on healing.
Most New Thought traditions teach the creative potential of the mind as integral to the physical, mental, and spiritual healing process. These traditions often draw from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions, but the main premise is often quite similar and can be summarized this way:
“Every thought we think and word we speak is constantly shaping our world and our experiences.”
New Thought traditions teach that we are one with the Power that created us, and that human experience is a product of this ongoing, unfolding creative process. New Thought practitioners use strategies such as meditation, affirmations, and affirmative prayer to align their consciousness with this creative Power.
The idea behind it is that “for God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26 NRSVue) and many people that follow New Thought philosophy believe that God is everywhere and in all things. A foundational affirmation is: There is only One Presence and One Power in the Universe and in my life, God the Source of All-Good.
New Thought organizations and leaders
New Thought assigns the quality of benevolence to this Power, also commonly referred to as Spirit, Creator, the Divine, God, Universe, Idea, Divine Intelligence, and Being that we are an expression of this Power, our nature is also Good.
There are several New Thought organizations along with well-known authors and teachers that talk about this philosophy. Popular New Thought-based organizations in the United States include:
- Agape International Spiritual Center
- Universal Foundation for Better Living
- Divine Science
- Association for Global New Thought
- The International New Thought Alliance
- Centers for Spiritual Living
Some notable modern New Thought authors and leaders include:
- Dr. Wayne Dyer,
- Mike Dooley
- Iyanla Vanzant
- Dr. Joe Dispenza
- Louise Hay
- Deepak Chopra,
- don Miguel Ruiz (Sr and Jr)
- Bruce Lipton
- Gregg Braden
- Lisa Nichols,
- Matthew Fox
- Maya Angelou
What is the difference between New Thought and New Age?
New Thought and New Age are often conflated because many New Age teachers and authors also adopt a New Thought philosophical framework. Additionally, many New Thought communities are also open and embracing of other traditions. Thus, New Age individuals often participate in New Thought communities.
However, when we use the term “New Thought” we are talking about the philosophical framework associated with consciousness and the mind.
“New Age” is a religious system that believes humans have shifted into a new astrological age, from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. It often includes complex theological frameworks and has a distinct mythos and orthopraxy that may differ from the beliefs and practices within New Thought communities.
New Thought is not a strict “religious system” with its own set of mythos and theology. Various terminology is used, especially in relation to naming a “God” idea. Words that may be used in New Thought contexts include: Power, God, Principle, the Divine , Universe, Spirit, Creative Power, Energy, and more.
How does Unity fit into New Thought?
The Unity movement is just one New Thought organization; it has supported the creation and evolution of Folx with Faith.
Unity was founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and it dates back to Myrtle Fillmore’s challenging health prognosis that she did not have much time left to live. She had chronic tuberculosis and over the years used several methods to remedy it.
In 1886, she heard a lecture by a man named E.B. Weeks, a former Christian Scientist (a branch within the New Thought Movement). During this lecture a thought was implanted in her mind:
“I am a child of God, therefore I do not inherit sickness.”
– Myrtle Fillmore
Through this and other “mind healing” efforts Myrtle Fillmore healed her own body and as she continued her practice her husband, Charles, became more and more interested in the New Thought movement.
Charles pursued the study of religion and philosophy to better understand how the mind works. The family began publishing a periodical called “Modern Thought” in 1889 with various authors discussing metaphysical topics, with the title changing until it became Unity Magazine, which is still published today.
Myrtle’s method was developed by her own intuition and faith, to speak to each cell in her body with love and gratitude, affirming the Truth of her Wholeness even in the experience of illness, through hours and hours of meditation. Notably, today quantum physics and other sciences validate and expand what Myrtle developed intuitively.
The Power of Prayer in Unity
Along with the publications, the Fillmore family also started a prayer movement in 1890 called “Silent Unity,” which offered prayer support for people in need. Initially, after hearing about Myrtle’s healing, people would gather around her kitchen table to pray. Eventually, people would write letters asking for prayer and this evolved into a 24/7 prayer ministry with a “call-in” line which is still in operation today. Prayer associates at Silent Unity answer the phone, ‘how may we pray with you?’ in the spirit of Myrtle Fillmore, who believed it wasn’t her power in praying for others, it was in the activity of praying with others that the divine presence in each one was activated.
So, why the name Unity? Charles Fillmore, answered this question in a speech given in 1928, where he says:
“We have studied many isms, many cults. People of every religion under the sun claim that we either belong to them or have borrowed the best part of our teaching from them. We have borrowed the best from all religions, that is the reason we are called Unity …
‘Unity is not a sect, not a separation of people into an exclusive group of know-it-alls. Unity is the Truth that is taught in all religions, simplified … so that anyone can understand and apply it.”
— Charles Fillmore
The Fillmore family eventually started the Unity School for Christianity (now Unity World Headquarters and Unity Worldwide Ministries) to help people understand New Thought principles through a Christian lens.
Charles Fillmore believed that the truths found in all religions and spiritual traditions could be summed up in what he referred to as “primitive Christianity.” Charles pulled from many religious traditions but used the popular language of the day to make New Thought metaphysics a contemporary and useful tool in their daily lives.
While there is little scholarly evidence that early Christians, or “primitive Christianity” as Charles referred to it, would have had any basis for understanding New Thought principles. However, teaching these universal spiritual truths through a Christian lens provided a common language to help students grasp the concepts using their existing religious framework. Rather than to start a church, it was the Fillmores’ intent that students would take the teachings into their own churches. Study groups soon sprung up everywhere.
Unity: The realization of one’s true nature
When you look at Unity from an academic perspective, you often find core theological concepts align more with Sanatana dharma traditions. Traditions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism have had a major impact on advancement of New Thought philosophy.
Unity espouses realization theology over salvation theology, which is the type of theology found in dharmic traditions. Unity teachings are associated with the realization of the “Christ nature” within, which parallel the dharmic traditions and the realization of Divinity within. New Thought traditions (including Unity) are not seeking converts; the evolution of consciousness is intrinsic to each living soul.
Realization theology talks less about the “fallen nature” and more about the “true nature” of an individual. So, the goal is not to find the “right religion,” but seek the Truth within.
Instead of having strict dogma, doctrine, and theology, Unity centers have accepted five basic guiding principles, which are:
Unity’s five guiding principles:
- God is everywhere and always present in every circumstance. This divine energy underlies and animates all of existence.
- Human beings are innately good because they are connected to and an expression of Spirit.
- Our thoughts have creative power to influence events and determine our experiences.
- Prayer and meditation connect and align us to our own spiritual nature and to God.
- It is not enough to understand spiritual teachings. We must apply our learning in all areas of life, incorporating them into our thoughts, words, and actions.
The “new thought” of queer experiences
The Folx with Faith mission is to create an interfaith dialogue. We recognize that people of diverse traditions are coming together to join us in this space. We also want to recognize that some of the philosophies of New Thought have had a profound impact on the queer community.
The basic tenants of New Thought are ingrained in the rights the queer community has achieved over the years. Every step forward to equity and inclusion in our society have been made because there has been a “new thought.” Gay marriage is a primary example, a “new thought” introduced about the rights and privileges of same-sex couple.Expanding this “new thought,” we have seen major changes regarding this human right.
The current conversation regarding acceptance of gender diversity is another major step in the ever-evolving human consciousness. It is through continual affirmation of a person’s right to gender self-determination that we will make strides toward a world that works for all of us.
From New Thought to more faith
Every change that we experience in our world comes from a “new thought,” as Einstein put it. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Regardless of whether someone adopts a New Thought philosophy, we can all recognize that changes come through innovative new ideas.
The “new thought” of Folx with Faith is to create safe spaces to explore and experience spiritual wholeness. In supporting the queer community and fostering authentic beings, Folx with Faith empowering all to make a difference in the world.
The influence of the New Thought movement on the queer community cannot be overstated.
Its principles of inclusivity, affirming the innate goodness of all individuals, and the use of positive affirmative thinking have been particularly empowering. This progressive philosophy has provided a framework for many within the queer community to reconcile their spirituality with their identity. In a world where religious traditions often grapple with accepting queer individuals; New Thought has often been a beacon of hope and acceptance.
The divine in you
Unity’s approach to spirituality, which emphasizes the Divine in every person, aligns closely with the journey of many queer individuals seeking affirmation and a spiritual home. This alignment has made Unity, and the broader New Thought movement, attractive to those who have often felt marginalized by traditional religious institutions.
The emphasis on personal experience and interpretation allows for a more fluid and inclusive understanding of spirituality, one that resonates with the queer experience of seeking and affirming one’s true self.
Moreover, the advocacy for mental and emotional healing aligns with the often-challenging journeys of queer individuals as they navigate societal acceptance, personal identity, and the quest for equal rights. The idea that thoughts have the power to shape experience has been a vital tool for many in the queer community, fostering resilience and a positive outlook amidst adversity.
Folx with Faith honors the New Thought movement, because it has provided a philosophical foundation that is inclusive, empowering, and resonant with the experiences of the queer community.
As we continue to foster interfaith dialogues and create spaces for spiritual exploration, it is important to acknowledge and honor where we came from. Our journey towards a more inclusive and equitable world is enriched by the principles of New Thought, which remind us of our inherent connectedness, the transformative power of our thoughts, and the Divine presence in every individual.
Interested in New Thought?
You can request the FREE booklet from Unity.org “Worthy: LGBTQ Stories of Overcoming Rejection and Religion to Find Truth” – available in print and in pdf format.