Dr. Arthur Chang, author of “The New Positive Spirituality: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Everyday Life,” defines positive spirituality as the practice of positively embodying God’s attributes of love and law and using them in our lives to bring our desires into physical reality.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang

In defense of New Thought teachings of Positive Thinking

When, recently, a political commentator referred to Norman Vincent Peale as a “charlatan”, I was taken aback. The commentator was analyzing Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic, COVID-19, by using positive thought and the politicizing of the scientific, Center for Disease Control (CDC), guidelines thus making them ineffective. It raised the commentator’s ire that Trump was applying his understanding of teachings from Peale’s book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Trump held that by his maintaining positive thoughts about overcoming the coronavirus, it would go away. Undoubtedly, that was a disastrous conclusion, resulting in approximately 12.5 million people being infected as of November 2020. By not using CDC guidelines until a suitable vaccine is available, the nation is subject to a “snake oil Sam” prescription.

Norman Vincent Peale was a popular and highly respected teacher of New Thought, and it would be sad to think that a bad interpretation of New Thought principles will cast the cloak “charlatan” upon the immense contribution of this movement to the positive outcome of countless people’s lives.

What is New Thought?

The New Thought movement is a spiritual movement, which draws its foundation upon "ancient thought". We will find its influence from the wisdom of the Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Taoist, Vedic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures.

Core Teachings of New Thought:

1.     God or Infinite Intelligence is supreme, universal, and everlasting

2.     Divinity dwells within each person, that all people are spiritual beings

3.     The highest spiritual principle is loving, teaching and healing one another

4.     Our mental states tend to manifest as our experience

5.     Faith or positive thinking is encouraged for all challenges, hopes and aspirations of our lives

Systems have their flaws especially in application

As with all systems, New Thought can be misapplied, especially when it is confused with “magical thinking.” The miracles of New Thought are often aligned with the Laws of the universe, “science”, where science means the way something works. In our work, Mind is central and the consciousness of good is encouraged. Good includes truthfulness, love, compassion, resilience, faith, and the feeling that we are immersed in infinite possibilities or optimism, despite appearances to the contrary. As with all systems, there are differences among our main thinkers. However, New Thought being law-based must also be science-based. Thus, the consciousness for a cure for COVID-19 that starts with positive thought must include the thought and work of the scientists as well as their methods. A good New Thought interpretation for COVID-19 would begin by affirming a cure, but would include following the CDC guidelines. This is not different from realizing that thought does not take the place of food or work. It supplements it. They work together. We need confidence, faith and hope to continue to persist despite the challenge.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

As we should not throw the baby out with the bath water, nor should we give up on doctors and hospitals when their practitioners make mistakes. It doesn’t make them charlatans. It simply makes them wrong. Error is part of all systems.

Some New Thought people may mistakenly think that thought is a substitute for action, when thought should be a supplement to action. The fullness of creation requires thought plus action. Action is life itself. However, we need the power of positive thinking if we, in our short lives, will evolve to express the best in us despite the challenges we face.

Norma Vincent Peale has done much good for many people. That an important person misinterpreted him does not make Peale a charlatan. On the contrary, he was a teacher of New Thought showing how positive thoughts can make a great difference to those who wish to thrive and flourish and not merely to survive in this life.