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Teheuti
19-09-2007, 05:10
Just thought you'all would be interested in this little essay I've just written. Would love to hear comments.

"The Secret: Tarot & the New Thought Movement"
by Mary K. Greer

If you want to understand what motivates the “secret teachings of the Tarot” as characterized by the mid-to-late-20th century approach to the RWS Tarot deck, it helps to look not only at the Anglo-American creators of that deck (Waite & Smith) but also at the hugh, but unacknowledged, influence of the uniquely-American New Thought movement and particularly William Walker Atkinson.

Those who have watched the video “The Secret” or read any of the works on the “Law of Attraction” by Abraham/Hicks and many, many others, may not be aware that this “Think-and-Grown-Rich” concept is a direct descendant (with relatively little updating) of the 19th century American New Thought movement. It began, some say, with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), a practitioner of mesmerism or mental healing, and forms the basic tenets of the Unity Church and the Church of Religious Science. One of its branches drew heavily upon Theosophy and helped popularize Hindu yogic practices in the U.S.

One of the most prolific authors in the New Thought movement was William Walker Atkinson, editor of _New Thought_ magazine, and author of _Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World_ (1906) in which can be found the basic tenets found in _The Secret_, including the use of positive thinking and affirmations. Atkinson used many pseudonyms, including Yogi Ramacharaka whose work _Mystic Christianity_ features a chapter on “The Secret Doctrine” in which he quotes from Eliphas Levi and A.E. Waite. Here he reveals the mystical side of the “Secret”--that there is an Inner Teaching--from which organized religion has departed. This hidden spiritual message is “the constant Mystic Message regarding the existence of the Spirit within the soul of each individual--that Something Within, to which all can turn, in time of pain and trouble--that Guide and Monitor which stands ever-ready to counsel, advise and direct if one opens himself to the Voice.”

Atkinson, through his hundreds of books and articles, taught that the “Key to the Mysteries” were methods to be used to listen to the still, silent voice within. He believed that “The Truth is the same, no matter under what name it is taught or who teaches it." So, under his various pseudonyms, he presented it in the form of mystic christianity, hindu yogic practices, and hermetic wisdom, culminating in a book called _The Kybalion_ by “Three Initiates,” outlining the seven Hermetic principles making up the “Law of Attraction."

What’s interesting to us as tarot readers is the close ties that Atkinson’s brand of New Thought has to Tarot. The trail actually begins with Quimby’s belief in mesmerism, something in which Antoine Court de Gébelin also firmly believed (dying during a treatment by Mesmer himself). Then there is the obvious influence that Eliphas Lévi and A.E. Waite had on Atkinson who began as a mental healer and ended up as a promulgator of Hermetic and Rosicrucian Wisdom. Atkinson was also “Magus Incognito” who wrote _The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians_, which includes a set of “seven cosmic principles” almost identical to those in _The Kybalion_. (Under the names Swami Bhakta Vishita and Swami Panchadasi, he wrote extensively on “seership.”)

A couple of people found themselves drawn to Atkinson through their shared interests, culminating in several works. Both L.W. de Laurence (best remembered for plagarizing Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot and the RWS deck) and Paul Foster Case moved to Chicago and collaborated with Atkinson (_Psychomancy and Crystal Gazing_ was written with de Laurence). A well-established rumor has it that Case was one of the “Three Initiates” who wrote _The Kybalion_, using its principles as the basis of his Tarot correspondence course. Those who look for New Thought methods in this course will find them aplenty.

The whole concept of Vibration, made popular (if hackneyed) through the Hippie term “vibes,” is descriptive of the mental resonance experienced by those who use the Tarot, and especially by those who see the Tarot as a tool for deliberately making one’s life better rather than simply mirroring or predicting character and events. A reading of the above mentioned works will convince anyone of the direct connection between the modern American approach to Tarot and the New Thought movement.

Atkinson's _Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World_ is available at:
http://gitacademy.tripod.com/GodsInTraining/ThoughtVibration.htm

Mary K. Greer

Troubadour
19-09-2007, 06:15
Dear Mary,

A wonderful essay, and very thought-provoking. Well researched and enjoyable, and totally on-point. I think you could "trace" the "Secret" back yet further, although I certainly have no references or research to make anything but an intuitive argument. I believe most of the thinkers referenced in your essay were strongly influenced by Eastern philosophy, in particular Doaism (Taoism) and to some extent even Tibetan Buddhism -- especially in the case of Eliphas Levi, Gnostic Christians or Waite. The power of positive affirmations is one of the reasons Tibetans never stop smiling. The belief that projective "attitude and actions" influence karma rather than "dogma and reaction."

Loved your essay!

Teheuti
19-09-2007, 06:48
I think you could "trace" the "Secret" back yet further, although I certainly have no references or research to make anything but an intuitive argument.
Definitely. There's nothing new under the sun. I have lots of references and sources to other, related lineages (see Christine Payne-Towler's _The Underground Stream_). I was specifically referencing the video _The Secret_ which is directly based on the New Thought movement, but there is Blavatsky's _Secret Doctrine_ and Waite's _Secret Tradition_, which are related "secrets" - referring back to both the entire Western Magical/Mystical Tradition and to Eastern religions.

I also pointed out how Quimby was a practitioner of Mesmerism - so that opens up the whole world of 18th c. French Freemasonry and other secret societies. The list is actually endless and far-ranging (as you indicate), though the direct link from one to the next is not always clear. That is why the New Thought material is so intriguing - because there are direct influences through people who collaborated together: Atkinson with Case and de Laurence.

I almost added a piece on Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), founder of the first American Rosicrucian society, who was probably an influence on Atkinson, and who was believed to be a member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, which promulgated the Egyptian-style tarot (also Madame Blavatsky's connection to Tarot) that was adopted by C.C. Zain for his Brotherhood of Light. The specific "law of attraction," was mentioned in Blavatsky's writings only briefly, but was developed thoroughly as New Thought "mentalism." While, I haven't yet done research on the history of affirmations, I know that the idea was used by Atkinson.

Mary

jmd
19-09-2007, 10:44
Thankyou Mary, it is so useful to be able to identify and isolate some of the key influences behind the impulse working in different societies - and of course there are always more than one... but this is a key one, it seems to me, that not only identifies, but seems to explain the US-mindframe (and I am not here using it in the least in a pejorative sense).

I have for many years been baffled by the Kybalion's popularity and respect it appears to have in (with a few exceptions) North America. Responding on a Masonic BB (http://staffs.proboards37.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=esoterical&thread=1157592925&page=2) in a critical way to the claims made for the book, I noted last year its three supposed authors... but had been lead to believe that the 'key' player in its writings was Case rather than Atkinson. Your suggestion to the contrary makes so much more sense.

What's also quite interesting (from my perspective at any rate) is that this Atkinsonian permeation accounts not only for the recent North American popularity of "The Secret", but also for such a 'craze' as the Celestine Prophecy, and, on a more positive note (it's obvious I think rather poorly of the previous two examples mentioned), not only the form neo-Paganism took with StarHawk (and others) in the 1980s, but even accounts for the apparent popularity of Crowley's 'Do What Thou Wilt' and the specific way neo-GD has developed in North America (via Regardie and the Ciceros in particular).

I realise this is going beyond tarot - but it does explain quite a lot, and places the stream squarely within the fjords of Atkinson's works.

Alta
19-09-2007, 11:40
Hi Teheuti,

I have not studied much of this, but a sister of mine has and she has always asserted that virtually all New Age philosophy comes from Theosophy and earlier. I was very interested to read the essay to understand it in more detail.

The ideas behind The Secret seem to have come out many times in different forms. I was in a used book place out in the country and found an old book, very 'hocus-pocus', that espoused virtually the same things. Despite the anecdotal way in which The Secret and its brethren present themselves, there does seem to be an underlying coherent theory. Whether it has any truth or not is another matter.

Teheuti
19-09-2007, 12:01
Thankyou Mary, it is so useful to be able to identify and isolate some of the key influences behind the impulse working in different societies
J-M, I thought of you more than once as I was putting this piece together. I had never before realized there was a particularly American frame of mind involved in the "school" of tarot that I grew up in - and yet I can see now how this is so, and how it may not make much sense to those with a more European sensibility. It probably seems naively optimistic and infused with a "go-get-em" quality. I think I read somewhere that New Thought philosophy is particularly well-suited to the rugged individualism combined with child-like (we-can-do-it) optimism of the fluidly mobile that is so North American. It prospers here while the rest of the world looks on with astonished disbelief.

Hopefully this will help all of us in communicating a little better about our underlying assumptions. As you say - it's not about one perspective being better, but that they are different.

There's so much more to the New Thought movement than I have even begun to mention. It never had a single center and various branches went off in all kinds of directions - but it has an influence that can be clearly discerned in most of the channeled writings of the 20th and now 21st century (of the "you create your own reality" sort). For instance, the Course in Miracles is considered to be a New Thought phenomenon, as is, ironically, Deepak Chopra and, of course, Oprah.

There's a lot more parallels waiting to be drawn that will allow us a peak at "core beliefs" (ah - New Thought, again) of which we are completely unaware because we Americans take them so much for granted.

Mary

Teheuti
19-09-2007, 12:15
I have not studied much of this, but a sister of mine has and she has always asserted that virtually all New Age philosophy comes from Theosophy and earlier.
Theosophy was hugely influential. Blavatsky's books are actually compilations of lots of earlier materials, brilliantly brought together. There were all kinds of secret societies in England and France that contributed pieces, plus spiritualism (no matter how much Blavatsky denigrated it) - and, of course, all the Eastern ideas that she popularized.

The influence of the "Western Magical Tradition" has been well-documented. See _Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus_ by John and Caitlin Matthews (revised edition of their classic _The Western Way_):
http://www.amazon.com/Walkers-Between-Worlds-Western-Mysteries/dp/0892810912/

I'm excited about the New Thought materials because it points to a somewhat different, previously unrecognized component in Tarot (though heavily interwoven with spiritualism and the Western Mysteries). It is precisely that interweaving that has masked some of the uniquely New Thought characteristics.

Mary

Teheuti
19-09-2007, 12:21
The ideas behind The Secret seem to have come out many times in different forms. I was in a used book place out in the country and found an old book, very 'hocus-pocus', that espoused virtually the same things.
It could very well be a book written under one of Atkinson's pseudonyms - although there were lots of other proponents of the theory. The wikipedia article on New Thought is an excellent place to start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought

They bring up another important lineage that feeds into all this - the Transcendentalists.

Mary

Teheuti
19-09-2007, 12:28
I just followed up a wiki link and found one of the sources of affirmation.

"Émile Coué (February 26, 1857 – July 2, 1926) was a French psychologist and pharmacist who introduced a method of psychotherapy, healing, and self-improvement based on optimistic autosuggestion."

Of course, the earliest spiritual affirmation might be considered the statement, "I Am That I Am." However, if we are looking more specifically at deliberate autosuggestion then Coué seems to have been an influence on the form that New Thought took.

"The basis of Émile Coué's method is the following (scientific) principle: "Any idea exclusively occupying the mind turns into reality"; but only if the idea is within the realms of possibility."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emile_Coue

Hey, jmd, it's not even American - it's French!

Mary

jmd
19-09-2007, 12:34
Just to also put my response in some context, I have in preparation and note-form a paper I am to give to the (Masonic) Lodge of Research precisely on key influences in the Masonic world over the past 100-odd years.

It seems to me that on the continent of Europe, the key influences that has altered the Masonic landscape are, on the one hand, Co-Freemasonry and on the other Guénon (I was astounded that so many Masonic books in French are permeated in some way or other by his influence); in Australia I see a very strong Anthroposophical influence (albeit veiled); and in the US I thought I saw a strong Crowleyan (though again veiled) influence - though I can really see how this is more Atkinsonian-type thinking.

And by the way, it may not even be so much those individuals as causal, but rather that they characterise the currents in which they themselves become leading examplars.

These have their exact parallel in the new-age movement and the manner it locally manifest - for example, it seemed to me the 'New Age' in the UK and France is far more 'structured' than in either the US or Australia. These have their repercussions, of course, for the manner in which tarot is seen and used.

If I can try and characterise the Australian 'soul', it combines a rebelliousness to any claimed 'authority' with an impulse to cutting down what is here referred to as the 'tall poppy syndrome' - not so much with individuals, but even more importantly with unquestioned ideas or ways of doing things (which is why I personally think Anthroposophical ideas enjoy such veiled influence here - from the design of important buildings and our capital city to what is perhaps the highest per capita influence of Steiner education in the world).

It's also strange, from an Australian perspective, to see the American temperament described as 'rugged individualism', as by our standards Americans seem to be so very much communal in comparison (and so much under the warming and protective influence of Cancer).

But enough meandering reflections that your essay has produced...
_____

With regards to the Kybalion, are you suggesting that perhaps de Laurence was its third author?

jmd
19-09-2007, 12:54
oops - missed the other replies as I was typing (I'm slow at typing).

I think that has long been a close association between the French and the Americans in both psychology and politics (despite the two seemingly at loggerheads!). But did not Coué very much base his works on Mesmer (I know very little about Coué, save his generic autosuggestion for health improvement)?

... and by the way, in case you have not come across him before, I find Herbert Silberer (another Freudian-influenced individual who probably had a major but little acknowledged influence on Jung) more fascinating than Jung, and pertinent to all this. His key work, Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism (trans. NY, 1917 - I have the 1971 reprinting as Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts) is a valuable source for influences on various esoteric developments in North America (in my opinion).

Teheuti
20-09-2007, 11:22
Re: Influences on Freemasonry
in the US I thought I saw a strong Crowleyan (though again veiled) influence - though I can really see how this is more Atkinsonian-type thinking.
I don't know much about the particulars of Masonry in the U.S., but living in the "gold country" - almost all towns (no matter how small) have a Masonic building & lodge that date from the gold rush days and is still going strong. However, these are mostly just civic organizations with a hint of ritual that no one understands. A friend told me how frustrated he is that there is no interest in the symbolism or the meaning of the rituals.

Lon DuQuette is active in a Southern CA lodge that treats the work more seriously and he speaks at many others. I wonder how much the current Crowley/OTO influence comes through him.

it seemed to me the 'New Age' in the UK and France is far more 'structured' than in either the US or Australia.
The US version of the 'New Age' is wide-ranging to the point that most people identify more with a particular emphasis and not with the umbrella notion of New Age.

Thanks for your characterization of the Australian 'soul.' I find these things fascinating.

It's also strange, from an Australian perspective, to see the American temperament described as 'rugged individualism', as by our standards Americans seem to be so very much communal in comparison (and so much under the warming and protective influence of Cancer).

Oh, it's definitely a myth - closely related to the myth of the cowboy that Bush has latched onto.

With regards to the Kybalion, are you suggesting that perhaps de Laurence was its third author?
I never thought of him in that context, but who knows. I've heard Dion Fortune mentioned (I don't believe it), or perhaps Case's then-wife, Harriette.

Mary

Teheuti
20-09-2007, 11:38
I find Herbert Silberer (another Freudian-influenced individual who probably had a major but little acknowledged influence on Jung) more fascinating than Jung, and pertinent to all this. His key work, Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism (trans. NY, 1917 - I have the 1971 reprinting as Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts) is a valuable source for influences on various esoteric developments in North America (in my opinion).
Do you think most US esoterists have read Silberer? I've seen the book before (may even have a copy) but I don't remember ever having read it. Do you think he is directly more influential than Jung? Will have to look more into this now.

Am off to teach in Dallas so I won't be around for a few days.

Mary

jmd
20-09-2007, 23:22
I strongly suspect (with more perhaps unwarranted circumstantial evidence) that Silberer would have been read by the likes of Manly P. Hall (PRS), H. Spencer Lewis (AMORC), and Paul F. Case (BOTA).

With regards to the Crowleyan influence, I see it (as someone from the outside) as being active quite early, and without his influence overt. But again, it may perhaps better be described as him characterising the impulse and its influence, rather than being its progenitor.

One thing's for sure, your opening post's made me want to read Atkinson again...

...and for a different reason also read a little more of Thomas Merton's works - perhaps there's also more of the Atkinsonian-like impulse therein than I realised (Thomas Merton seems to me to be soooooo American - in all its positive connotations!).

mac22
21-09-2007, 10:53
Just thought you'all would be interested in this little essay I've just written. Would love to hear comments.

"The Secret: Tarot & the New Thought Movement"
by Mary K. Greer

If you want to understand what motivates the “secret teachings of the Tarot” as characterized by the mid-to-late-20th century approach to the RWS Tarot deck, it helps to look not only at the Anglo-American creators of that deck (Waite & Smith) but also at the hugh, but unacknowledged, influence of the uniquely-American New Thought movement and particularly William Walker Atkinson.

Those who have watched the video “The Secret” or read any of the works on the “Law of Attraction” by Abraham/Hicks and many, many others, may not be aware that this “Think-and-Grown-Rich” concept is a direct descendant (with relatively little updating) of the 19th century American New Thought movement. It began, some say, with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), a practitioner of mesmerism or mental healing, and forms the basic tenets of the Unity Church and the Church of Religious Science. One of its branches drew heavily upon Theosophy and helped popularize Hindu yogic practices in the U.S.

One of the most prolific authors in the New Thought movement was William Walker Atkinson, editor of _New Thought_ magazine, and author of _Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World_ (1906) in which can be found the basic tenets found in _The Secret_, including the use of positive thinking and affirmations. Atkinson used many pseudonyms, including Yogi Ramacharaka whose work _Mystic Christianity_ features a chapter on “The Secret Doctrine” in which he quotes from Eliphas Levi and A.E. Waite. Here he reveals the mystical side of the “Secret”--that there is an Inner Teaching--from which organized religion has departed. This hidden spiritual message is “the constant Mystic Message regarding the existence of the Spirit within the soul of each individual--that Something Within, to which all can turn, in time of pain and trouble--that Guide and Monitor which stands ever-ready to counsel, advise and direct if one opens himself to the Voice.”

Atkinson, through his hundreds of books and articles, taught that the “Key to the Mysteries” were methods to be used to listen to the still, silent voice within. He believed that “The Truth is the same, no matter under what name it is taught or who teaches it." So, under his various pseudonyms, he presented it in the form of mystic christianity, hindu yogic practices, and hermetic wisdom, culminating in a book called _The Kybalion_ by “Three Initiates,” outlining the seven Hermetic principles making up the “Law of Attraction."

What’s interesting to us as tarot readers is the close ties that Atkinson’s brand of New Thought has to Tarot. The trail actually begins with Quimby’s belief in mesmerism, something in which Antoine Court de Gébelin also firmly believed (dying during a treatment by Mesmer himself). Then there is the obvious influence that Eliphas Lévi and A.E. Waite had on Atkinson who began as a mental healer and ended up as a promulgator of Hermetic and Rosicrucian Wisdom. Atkinson was also “Magus Incognito” who wrote _The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians_, which includes a set of “seven cosmic principles” almost identical to those in _The Kybalion_. (Under the names Swami Bhakta Vishita and Swami Panchadasi, he wrote extensively on “seership.”)

A couple of people found themselves drawn to Atkinson through their shared interests, culminating in several works. Both L.W. de Laurence (best remembered for plagarizing Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot and the RWS deck) and Paul Foster Case moved to Chicago and collaborated with Atkinson (_Psychomancy and Crystal Gazing_ was written with de Laurence). A well-established rumor has it that Case was one of the “Three Initiates” who wrote _The Kybalion_, using its principles as the basis of his Tarot correspondence course. Those who look for New Thought methods in this course will find them aplenty.

The whole concept of Vibration, made popular (if hackneyed) through the Hippie term “vibes,” is descriptive of the mental resonance experienced by those who use the Tarot, and especially by those who see the Tarot as a tool for deliberately making one’s life better rather than simply mirroring or predicting character and events. A reading of the above mentioned works will convince anyone of the direct connection between the modern American approach to Tarot and the New Thought movement.

Atkinson's _Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World_ is available at:
http://gitacademy.tripod.com/GodsInTraining/ThoughtVibration.htm

Mary K. Greer


I stumbled across William Walker Atkinson & New Thought in '65-'66 and imbibed deeply.:) I special ordered many of his books & pamphlets.

Thing is Atkinson's techniques work. His works are worthy of study by today's serious students IMHO.

mac22

blackroseivy
21-09-2007, 11:04
Excuse me, Ms. Greer - may I ask you something?

I saw the expression "the still, small voice within" in your essay & just have to ask - where did that expression originate? Is it a quote? I have particular reason for asking...

Thank you!

jmd
21-09-2007, 11:32
I Kings 19: 11-12

blackroseivy
21-09-2007, 12:31
WOW - it was the BIBLE?! Well knock me over with a feather...

Thanx jmd!

firemaiden
21-09-2007, 17:00
Wow that was one powerful feather :D

Mary thank you so much for posting your essay. Does any of this have a tie to the little book "As a Man Thinketh" ?

I was directed to take this book to heart by my first voice teacher.

Moonbow
21-09-2007, 17:20
I've enjoyed your essay Mary, and it's given me several leads to go and read up, including Atkinson who I hadn't heard of before. I watched 'The Secret' earlier this year and although impressive in what they all say, I found it a little too hyped in it's presentation, but I'm sure it sparked interest in further research and reading for many people. I've also read a few of Wayne Dwyer's books which are on a similar line.

Firemaiden I have a small James Allen book called The Wisdom of James Allen, which has five of his works, incuding As a Man Thinketh. I must read this little book again, it's been a few years.

mac22
21-09-2007, 17:32
Wow that was one powerful feather :D

Mary thank you so much for posting your essay. Does any of this have a tie to the little book "As a Man Thinketh" ?

I was directed to take this book to heart by my first voice teacher.

James Allen is another hidden gem.... All of his books are worthy of study IMHO

mac22

Teheuti
28-09-2007, 07:04
I saw the expression "the still, small voice within" in your essay & just have to ask - where did that expression originate?
I see someone gave you the bible reference. Atkinson used it as have many others to refer to inner guidance.

Mary