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Metaphysical Movements - Neil T. Duddy

The term "metaphysical" is a word with two personalities. It has both a general meaning and a specialized, "technical" one. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines "metaphysical" in its general sense as "of the nature of being or essential reality." The specialized meaning refers to a collection of religious movements which hold certain beliefs in common. The best known of those movements is Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science. Some other groups connected with Christian Science, historically as well doctrinally, include Unity School of Christianity, Science of Mind, and Church of Religious Science. In their own day, the teachings were called New Thought.

Central ideas of those metaphysical groups are being popularized today by a series of new movements which have borrowed intensively from many sources, including Eastern philosophy, occultism, gnosticism, parapsychology, and scientific speculation. Because there is so much cross-fertilization between contemporary spiritual groups, it is difficult to assemble them into meaningful categories. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to review the main doctrines of the original metaphysical movements which they hold in common.

1. An emphasis is placed on creation as emanation, that is, created order is simply an extension of God. Consequently, there is no Creator/creature distinction.

2. Metaphysicians often use the Bible as a reference, and they invariably refer to many teachings of Jesus with the idea that secret, or esoteric, teachings lie beneath the surface of New Testament accounts.

3. Metaphysical movements infuse New Testament teachings about healings, union with God, and miracles with the notion that, because he too was human, men and women can perform just as Jesus did. In their view, Jesus was simply a man who used right thoughts and cosmic energy to heal disease and illness. Those powers of the inner self exist within everyone today.

4. Moral rapprochement with God is unnecessary because God is an impersonal force, a power or principle to be used in "meditation" for human benefit.

5. Repentance and atonement are translated into love for self and others; they are not God-oriented.

6. Metaphysical thought is closely related to Hindu monism. Although Christian language is often used, the underlying ideas are not biblical in origin or content.