The following is from an email exchange between myself and David Metcalfe (here is a link to an interview David did with Greg Kaminsky for “The Occult of Personality” http://occultofpersonality.net/david-metcalfe/) on New Thought.
“David, I am reading a copy of Mitch Horowitz’s autobiographical look at New Thought, and am reminded of several conversations I had over the years regarding this topic. The historical roots of New Thought in Indian philosophy are hinted at as well as exposed in the various books by William Walker Atkinson and his pseudonym ‘Yogi Ramachakra’. We see references to Paracelsus in The Mystic Will by Leland. It is the writings of Judge Thomas Troward that we see it most clearly, as his specialty was comparative religion and it is said his essay on the topic for the British foreign service was considered exemplary. He was of course, stationed in India in the Punjab. It would not be a stretch to assume he had some contact with the yogis as well as philosophers in the region. In his work, The Creative Process in the Individual (1915), a copy of which was given to me by Dr. Joseph Lisiewski – known to be an advocate of ‘New Thought’ practices – Troward mentions the states of consciousness that would be identical with what is considered the ‘Diamond’ or ‘Rainbow Body’ in the tantras and Dzogchen.
Father Francis Tiso, an American priest living in Italy whom I know, and has been featured in a documentary, “The Return of the Exorcists” (2015), wrote an interesting book showing possible connections of Tibetan practices with little known sects in Eastern Christianity that were on the Silk Road, thereby linking the two across the well-traveled trade routes. His book is titled, Rainbow Body and Resurrection: Spiritual Attainment, the Dissolution of the Material Body, and the Case of Khenpo A Chö (2016). In fact, I mention Tiso’s early research in the Introduction to Between the Gates: Lucid Dreaming, Astral Projection, and the Body of Light in Western Esotericism (2008).
The interesting part for some researchers maybe the similarity in the teachings of Franz Bardon in Initiation into Hermetics wherein he emphasizes with Elemental meditations, concentration in the solar plexus, and moving the energy in, through and outside of the body with very simple meditations and visualizations, and some of the Dzogchen practices of the same. Of course, Bardon was clearly influenced in some manner by existing materials on yoga, that is Raja Yoga, and if we look at the practices in the Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness, nearly all of the Dzogchen practices can be found in there – if not all of them – as well. Because of the text’s place in Kashmir Shaivism I wonder if a direct and tangible link can be made between New Thought and this tantra, as such, then a connection can be made to Dzogchen (at least if I remember Daniel Odier’s placement of it in the region. The text was also available in 1918, although I am not certain if it was in translation or Sanskrit. Troward may have seen it at some point, although he died in 1916 as he was in India for 25 years and we are told he had “digested all the sacred texts of the Orient” and sought to present a synthesized philosophy of them upon his retirement in 1905.
My point is that New Thought is often denigrated by many in the occult community, and at times the way it is presented its advocates are their own worst enemy, however, it has a great deal in common with the highest and most profound esoteric teachings known and this is worthy of additional research and consideration.
The same is true of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC), at least as it existed until the mid- 1990s. Its teachings were an almost radical application of New Thought ideas – without framing them as such. The entirety of their teachings can be found encapsulated in the Neophyte section, although few will have the tenacity to extract the essence that is there through rigorous self-disciplined practice, so there are additional degrees which are an elaboration on what is given in the first year. Here, however, it can all be distilled down to the teachings of their Ninth Degree. If you like, you can include the Seventh and Eight Degrees as well, but that is unessential if one were to vigorously practice and apply the simple methods of the Ninth Degree. Some members of IHS have explored those methods, as given in lessons and notebooks from the 1930s, in detail in private research which we have been able to point to in the Study Guide Mind of Hermes – Visionary Experiences in Western Esotericism. AMORC was once a hothouse for esoteric exploration and development. Its place and importance in 20th Century spirituality is too often ignored – again, in part because of its own stupidity at times and a humorous ‘true believer’ attitude of its more vocal members – but more importantly, from the narrow focus of those looking at the movement from the outside and failing to understand what the occult landscape would have been like without it.”