Testaments to the Power of Positive Thinking: Catherine Ponder and Joseph Murphy
by Marylyn Rands, Ph.D. / MiracleNews.net
Catherine Ponder's teachings on prosperity and healing influenced many in the twentieth century. Her own life reads as an example of her teachings. She went from conditions of financial hardship as a single mother to discovering for herself the ancient secrets of manifestation to becoming a world-renowned authority, richly rewarded for her work and endeavors. She founded three Unity churches from scratch. She is still researching and teaching about abundance, and heads a global ministry of the Unity Church in Palm Desert, California. The Unity church has been greatly influenced by her work. They provide the Silent Unity prayer line (816-969-2000), which uses many of the affirmations Catherine created based on her studies of ancient principles.
Yet she seems modest about her own accomplishments. This author of 14 books is lauded by her readers and followers and has received honors, including the "Prosperity Teacher Century Award" from The International New Thought Alliance (85th Congress, 2000), Yet, autobiographical material is hard to find and you learn most about Catherine in the quality of her research and writing and the snippets of information she gives about herself as she describes the principles of prosperity.
She tells us, for example that it was during the recession of 1958 that she first began meditating on a thought, an affirmation: "My prosperity is unlimited. My success is unlimited now." She says that prosperity did not come to her in a flash flood. Rather, she had to study and learn the lessons. She chose the Bible as her textbook, though she read widely in the literature of other cultures.
Catherine Ponder is thought to be the first modern thinker to use affirmations to attract abundance. Her emphasis on positive thinking gained her the title, "The Normal Vincent Peale of lady ministers". Her substantial works trace practice of affirmation back to the early Egyptians. At that time, manifestation of "substance" was taught only to members of the royal family, as it was rightly feared that if the masses had this knowledge, they would not want to continue to be workers and slaves for the monarchy. Substance is her word for the intelligence and energy that thought transforms into matter.
She shows how Moses brought Egyptian mystical teachings were brought into the Judeo-Christian tradition. You will remember that Joseph was taken out of Israel at a time when that area of the world suffered severe droughts. By interpreting Pharoah's dreams, he successfully guided the Egyptians through cycles of drought and prosperity. The Hebrews were welcomed into Egypt because of Joseph's popularity. However, after Joseph died, the Hebrews were thought to be leeches on the land and were consigned to slavery and a bare existence.
It was during this historical period that the baby Moses, son of poor Hebrew parents, was found and raised by Pharoah's daughter. As a member of the royal court, he had access to mystical teachings, including how to work with substance. When Moses was forced to leave Egypt because he killed an Egyptian, he had this esoteric knowledge.
Catherine Ponder shows how Moses used the "laws of prosperity". First, during his first 40 years, he lived the abundance of a royal lifestyle and taught the physical and metaphysical meaning of the law, "Substance is the key to all wealth." Second, while living in the desert for 40 years, he learned the law of "I AM" - that is, of knowing one's divine nature and the power of using intuition and mind rather than physical force to gain results. By listening to the I AM presence within himself, he knew he was to return to Egypt and free the Hebrews. Third, while freeing the Hebrews from Egypt and while they wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moses taught how mind power can free us from depending on others. The story of Manna is the story of taking one day at a time and trusting the divine to provide. This was a period of stabilization before they finally returned to their homeland "of milk and honey".
There is another law of prosperity that Ponder calls the "miracle law." That is the law of thanksgiving or gratitude. "The deliberate act of thanks liberates certain potent energies of mind and body that are not otherwise released. Through praise and thanksgiving, you can activate the dynamic powers of the subconscious and super-conscious phases of your mind, which then act speedily in your behalf! It is possible through the deliberate act of thanksgiving to completely transform your life. Yes, thanksgiving is your miracle power for prosperity." (The Millionaire Moses, Marina del Rey, DeVorss, 1977, p.165).
We have touched on only a few of the prosperity lessons in the Moses story. From Catherine Ponder we learn that cause and effect is the basic rule, that setbacks are for our learning and that the keys to prosperity lie within each of us. See The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity (DeVorss, 1983) for a fuller discussion of these principles.
Ponder wrote about many of the Bible's richest characters. In each story, she shows how the universal principles of prosperity work (see The Millionaires of Genesis, 1976; The Millionaire Moses, 1977; and The Millionaire Joshua, 1978; The Millionaire from Nazareth, 1979). In this way, she was practicing another teaching art that has become popular today - the art of storytelling and myth. As story and myth, these books still offer valuable lessons to readers of any religious background.
The Laws of Prosperity are taught today by different thinkers under different names, but all follow the pattern Catherine Ponder elucidated so clearly: intention, affirmation and creation. By now the rules of conscious creation are part of our literature. We desire something, we visualize that desire, we practice some form of intensifying that desire out of image and into form. Other articles in this issue and other issues of the Spirit of Ma'at enforce this concept (e.g., Drunvalo Melchizedek, Greg Braden). Other current authors who use these concepts are Deepak Chopra, Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer, Neale Donald Walsh and many others.
We recommend reading or rereading the classis works of Catherine Ponder because of her informal and vivid way of teaching the laws, the many examples of success she has personally witnessed, and because of her understanding of divine principles that help us through those times when what we want does not manifest quickly enough to suit us.
Joseph Murphy (1898-1981) was Minister-Director of the Church of Divine Science in Los Angeles for 28 years. His lectures on the power of the subconscious mind to create prosperity and health were attended by 1300 to 1500 people every Sunday. He had a daily radio program and continued to write and lecture all his long life, authoring more than thirty books. His most noted book is The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (reprint with Ina McMahan, 2001). You might also enjoy reading or rereading Miracle Power for Infinite Riches (1974), How to Attract Money (1983) or Your Infinite Power to be Rich (1974).
Joseph Murphy, Ph.D., D.D., was strongly influenced by the idea of a conscious and subconscious mind working synchronously in the happy, whole person. The "Life-Force" was God's will working within each of us. "The will of God for you is something marvelous, wonderful and beautiful, transcending your fondest dreams. God is absolute peace and cannot wish pain. God is boundless joy and cannot wish sorrow. God is boundless love and cannot do anything unloving. God is wholeness, beauty and perfection and cannot wish sickness. God is the same yesterday, today and forever." In addition, God is impersonal. "Man rewards and punishes himself based on the way his conscious mind impregnates his subconscious mind. If man thinks good, he receives good; and if he thinks evil, evil inevitable follows (How to Use the Laws of Mind, 1980. p. 27).
Murphy realized that thoughts, feelings, imagination and beliefs affect prosperity and health. "When you stop and think, you realize that everything you do and that you refuse to do is previously determined by an attitude of mind - a way of thinking on your part. If you find your condition chronic, if you are leading a dull, routine, monotonous life, it is very likely that you too are dwelling on the past and repeating the same old mental patterns" (1980, p. 33). Negative experiences are viewed as the Life Principle shaking us out of our lethargy to find the solution and aim for something higher.
In his ministry and radio talks, Murphy taught how to change negative thinking. He relied heavily on the Bible, particularly the Psalms (see Songs of God. An Interpretation of My Favorite Psalms, DeVorss, 1979), as a guide to right thinking. He would often have a client who came to him in trouble rewrite a psalm or a Bible verse so that it fit their situation. They were then to say this in the way of an affirmation as a means of getting the message from the conscious to the subconscious mind.
Murphy was outspoken about popular beliefs, "superstitions". "If it is God's will." That is too absurd for words. The will of God is a greater measure of life, freedom, expression and growth … Bring your conscious and subconscious together at one point - then you will bring your desire to pass. (1980, p.53).
Another superstition is, " 'If it's right for me.' What is not right for you? It is right for you to lead the abundant life." (p.53). He was aware the world impinged on us. "Keep prayed up," he would advise.
The riches of the world are there for all to enjoy. If you do not yet share in the opulence of the world, Murphy reminds us that "the cattle on a thousand hills are yours; the song of the birds is yours; you can enjoy the stars in the heavens, the morning dew, the sunset and the sunrise … There is enough fruit that rots in the tropics to feed all of humanity. Nature is bountiful, lavish, extravagant, and actually wasteful" (Miracle Power for Infinite Riches, Parker/Reward Books, 1972, p. 44). The subconscious can be enriched with ideas of abundance, and abundance will follow. These are spiritual laws.
The affirmations and prayers in Murphy's book rely heavily on Bible quotations, which are then expanded upon to fit the individual situation. A reader of another orientation could still find helpful meditations in these books if they were to change the wording from God the Father, to Goddess, Creative Spirit, Universal Consciousness or something else more fitting to them. He provides many stories to illustrate how the principles worked to create financial prosperity, health, creative ideas, harmonious relationships and more. They are good as examples of the working of the laws of prosperity consciousness in the twentieth century.
Marylyn Rands, PhD, lives in Franklin, MA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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