Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thomas Troward

One of the most common ideas in "New Age" circles is that thought, visualization, or belief can manifest anything desired on the physical plane of existence. Unfortunately, most New Age apostles aren't very good at critical thinking. They accept at face value whatever notions make them feel good. And they're caught in a mixture of transcendence and capitalism, spirituality and superstition.

Not surprisingly, New Agers fail to convince rationalists that mind alone can change outward conditions, including health and wealth. People with common sense tend to recoil when the see books, for instance, bearing such titles as
Think and Grow Rich, Release the Dynamite of Your Mental Power, and You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Single Negative Thought!

But the basic premise that our minds are part of a larger, "universal" mind with far greater power than individual minds has a long history. And I have long suspected that there are better explanations of it than the pseudo-mystical slogans of the New Age movement. I have not read Mary Baker Eddy, so have no firm opinion of her teachings or those of Christian Science. (But I have found the writings of Joel Goldsmith, whose teachings are similar, often beautiful and inspirational.)
Skeptics who aren't absolutely bound in the strait-jacket of scientific materialism might be impressed by Thomas Troward (1847-1916). Troward's teachings, some in the form of lecture transcriptions, make a clear and reasonable case for phenomena that are not clear to our everyday, limited minds and go beyond pure reason. There is no way, other than results, of proving the hypothesis of universal mind that can shape our experiences if we open ourselves to it. But Troward writes like a philosopher with a firm grounding in logic. He takes the reader step by step, doing his utmost to explain and exemplify each step.

Here's a sample from The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science:
... All Nature is pervaded by an interior personalness, infinite in its potentialities of intelligence, responsiveness, and power of expression, and only waiting to be called into activity by our recognition of it. By the terms of its nature it can respond to us only as we recognize it.

If we are at that intellectual level where we can see nothing but chance governing the world, then this underlying universal mind will present to us nothing but a fortuitous confluence of forces without any intelligible order.

If we are sufficiently advanced to see that such a confluence could only produce a chaos, and not a cosmos, then our conceptions expand to the idea of univeral Law, and we find this to be the nature of the all-underlying principle. We have made an immense advance from the realm of mere accident into a world where there are definite principles on which we can calculate with certainty when we know them.
Troward's moral and spiritual seriousness is stamped on every page. Nowhere is there a taint of self-interest, although he is ever pointing to the higher Self that each of us is part of. I've read a lot of books with metaphysical implications, and believe I have developed an intuition about which are written by those who know, and which are by authors who copy from each other, whose egos are involved, or who want to sell products. The latter are what I mostly find in New Age publications and consciousness-improving toys.

But to the contrary, with someone like Joel Goldsmith, my rational mind can come up with lots of questions and even disagreements, but doubts are suspended; I can't help feeling, this man understands something that I don't, or at least understands it much better. And the same is true with Troward.

The great religions are full of statements that seem paradoxical, even ridiculous. As Paul told the Corinthians, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." As Troward notes, Jesus said, "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall receive them" (Mark 11:24).

Troward comments, "The difference in the tenses is remarkable. The speaker bids us first to believe that our desire has already been fulfilled, that it is a thing already accomplished, and then its accomplishment will follow as a thing in the future. This is nothing else than a concise direction for making use of the creative power of thought by impressing upon the universal subjective mind the particular thing which we desire as an already existing fact. In following this direction we are thinking on the plane of the absolute and eliminating from our minds all consideration of conditions, which imply limitation and the possibility of adverse contingencies; and we are thus planting a seed which, if left undisturbed, will infallibly germinate into external fruition."


It needs to be admitted that Troward's style can be off-putting at times, as well as more formal than we are used to in current writing. It is the defect of his virtue. He is so concerned with building his case -- perhaps his time as "Divisional Judge, Punjab" influenced his writing habits -- that he can sound dry and schoolmaster-ish. But anyone who wants to look behind the veil that normally hides the higher truths will almost certainly find a great deal that is rewarding.

A couple of Troward's books are online here.


Rad said...

As a Christian Scientist, I was happy to see the reference to Mary Baker Eddy. Christian Science is a Bible-based religion and Christian Scientists would generally distance themselves from "New Age" teachings. In particular, CS teaches that the human mind does not have any real creative power. All real power belongs to God, or divine Mind.

You may find the following quote from Mary Baker Eddy of interest:

"To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science."

Thank you for your interesting blog.

Rick Darby said...


I lack any experiential knowledge of Christian Science, although I suspect that Joel Goldsmith, who was originally CS, conveys its flavor.

That our limited human minds can tap into spiritual richness and healing power through the higher, or universal, mind, I accept intellectually and intuitively. But I can't help wondering whether you don't have to be an adept or have special gifts to do so. And can people who are less advanced in this mental art than they imagine they are be useless, or even harmful, when they try to heal through a concept that they haven't yet realized in practice?

What do you say?

Alexis Wittman said...


The big divergence here between new age and Christian Science, is Eddy's point "the human mind is not an element of healing". It is a careful turning, and perhaps a release from human sense, to the divine that heals. Her famously positioned quote:"Divine Live has met, and always will meet every human need" points toward spirit. In practice, it takes no more than a moment of prayer. A moment of acknowledgement, that "God is on the field". And, with a nod to both Joel and quantum physicists, God Is the field. I. The "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" awareness.

It always amazes me how few in this arena actually read (AND ACTUALLY STUDY) Eddy. She is the base from which Joel springs. And while he reaches new heights of inspired thought, and explains it all with such timeless ease and grace and Christianity, it is the richness that comes from Eddy and Christian Science that yields a true healing practice, and not merely a nice sounding philosophy. I am sorry this sounds like a slam, but I am trying to point others to the foundation that gave Joel his base. Understand Christian Science, and Joel will be even more amazingly authentic.

Alexis Wittman, CS