What is a “thought atmosphere” or “mental atmosphere”? Does such a thing really exist or is the phrase simply some teaching tool to help us understand the power of our thoughts?
I was prepping for an upcoming talk I am giving at a spiritual center and my mind got sidetracked thinking about a quote with this term in it. So, today I want to jump a bit deeper into this New Thought topic of our mental atmosphere. What is a mental atmosphere? Does it really exist? And if so, how can we use it to contribute to the quality of our lives?
It’s easy to discount the term as simply some way of expanding upon the “power of thought” and a “thoughts are things” teaching. That is, as New Thought teaches, what we tend to think about is what we tend to create in our lives.
There are many ways that New Thought attempts to point out the power of our thought so as to make us more conscious “thinkers”. One of those ways is through the concept of a mental atmosphere as Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy, states here:
“We are all immersed in the atmosphere of our own thinking, which is the direct result of all we have ever said, thought or done. This decides what is to take place in our lives.”
Holmes is not the only one who uses this term. Charles Fillmore, founder of the New Thought branch known as Unity put it this way:
“There is an invisible thought-stuff on which the mind acts, making things through the operation of a law not yet fully understood by man. Every thought moves upon this invisible substance in increasing or diminishing degree. When we praise the richness and fullness of God, this thought-stuff is tremendously increased in our mental atmosphere. It reflects into everything that our mind and our hands touch.”
One open to New Thought teachings yet coming from a materialistic worldview might have difficulty accepting that there is such an invisible substance that surrounds each thinking person containing some effects from our thoughts. It would be easy to discount the “mental atmosphere” as simply a fanciful way of getting us to visualize how our thoughts might have an attractive power. After all, visualizing the Peanuts’ character Pigpen with his perpetual cloud of dust around him as being a cloud of his thoughts can help us reorient our appreciation for the power of our thinking. For us to visualize and feel a “cloud of thoughts” riding around with us wherever we go can be a great teaching technique.
Stream of Consciousness sidenote: One wonders what Peanuts creator Charles Shultz might have had in mind in the birth of Pigpen. Could his dust be representative of our collective consciousness? Here is an interesting description of the character from the Peanuts website:
“He may travel in his own personal dust cloud, but Pigpen’s mind and conscience are clear. He’s confident in who he is and carries himself with dignity and respect. He treats others well and hopes they will do the same for him (they often do not, but he perseveres). Pigpen considers it a point of pride that he is cloaked in the ‘dust of countless ages.’ “
Early New Thought Teachers
But beyond being a “teaching tool”, is there actually such a thing as a “mental atmosphere”? It certainly was referenced by most early New Thought teachers.
One of the individuals frequently pointed out to be a major influence on New Thought teaching (and Holmes and Fillmore) was 19th century mental healer Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.
Quimby wrote about humans having certain “spiritual senses” (what we might term today ESP and other paranormal abilities) and such senses included detecting “ mental atmospheres”. It was written that Quimby was so sensitive to his patients “that it was difficult at times to put a patient’s atmosphere aside.”
Emma Curtis Hopkins, the New Thought “teacher of teachers”, wrote, “There is an atmosphere of uplifting about one who knows they are strong in Spirit. They realize their soul is always rising on the wings of aspiration above the conditions of their lot.”
Ralph Waldo Trine, early 20th century best selling author of In Tune with the Infinite wrote:
“Our prevailing thought forces determine the mental atmosphere we create around us, and all who come within its influence are affected in one way or another, according to the quality of that atmosphere; and though they may not always get the exact thoughts, they nevertheless get the effects of the emotions dominating the originator of the thoughts, and hence the creator of this particular mental atmosphere; and the more sensitively organized the person, the more sensitive he or she is to this atmosphere, even at times to getting the exact and very thoughts. So even in this the prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled, “There is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.”
I could go on with other New Thought teachers, but you probably get the point. Just about every teacher of the law of attraction references some mental atmosphere around us. Here’s a fun exercise—go Google your favorite New Thought teacher with the terms “mental atmosphere” or “thought atmosphere” and see what you get. “Fun” might not be the right word in the last sentence. Ha.
But is there some kind of “scientific proof” for a mental atmosphere? That’s one of those “hot topic” questions that the answer you come to depends upon your worldview and what you think constitutes “sufficient proof”.
Someone who is steeped in scientific materialism can read the proof for anything in the realm of the paranormal and say it’s not enough. Cue the Carl Sagan cited quote, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. However, such “extraordinary evidence” can never really be attained for most materialists because it would threaten the underpinnings of their worldview.
Yet, to those who are open minded on such things, there is ample evidence for the paranormal. I would point you to the work of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and their chief scientist, Dean Radin, for some good overviews.
Although there may be more specific research that gets at the study of “mental atmospheres” (and if you the reader know of ones, please let me know), the one that comes to mind is the work of Rupert Sheldrake and his theory of “morphic resonance”. In describing “morphic resonance”, Sheldrake states that it is “the idea of mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms and of collective memories within species” He says his theory can possibly account for phantom limbs, how dogs know when their owners are coming home, how people know when someone is staring at them and many forms of what we label as telepathy.
Sheldrake specifically writes about these fields in connection with mental activity:
“The morphic fields of mental activity are not confined to the insides of our heads. They extend far beyond our brain through intention and attention. We are already familiar with the idea of fields extending beyond the material objects in which they are rooted: for example magnetic fields extend beyond the surfaces of magnets; the earth’s gravitational field extends far beyond the surface of the earth, keeping the moon in its orbit; and the fields of a cell phone stretch out far beyond the phone itself. Likewise the fields of our minds extend far beyond our brains.”
Could such a field if proven to exist be the mental atmosphere referenced by the New Thought teachers? There is evidence to support the theory. But there is a lot of materialists who push back at the mention of morphic resonance. Sheldrake did a TedX talk on the “science delusion” that poked back at materialists that became so controversial that it was taken off the Ted website. (It’s still online here.) Morphic fields are a controversial subject to say the least.
Other New Thoughts on the Topic
Moving beyond the scientific debate which we obviously cannot resolve, let’s consider a couple of other things from a New Thought teaching perspective which might be helpful here.
Let’s begin by looking at a definition of the term “atmosphere” from Ernest Holmes:
“Atmosphere (Mental) An influence, or condition, surrounding a place, person or thing. A person whose atmosphere is one of love and cheerfulness will always attract friends. In the same way, places are permeated with the thoughts of the people who inhabit them, and this mental atmosphere of a place or thing may easily be felt by one contacting it.”
Now, let us consider that New Thought generally describes thoughts as a “movement in consciousness”. So when we are thinking, we are moving consciousness and when we move consciousness, this movement creates an atmosphere around us. Again, we could imagine this as like a sort of minor Pigpen like “dust up” of mental wind around us creating something that permeates our area.
But since we are generally “thinking all the time”, are we not also continuously creating this “mental atmosphere? Yes, of course.
One other idea to throw into the mix…..and that’s the idea that is a part of New Thought as well and that is that consciousness is in everything. Holmes wrote, “Consciousness and God are identical.” Many modern thinkers offer the idea that consciousness is “the ground of all being”. Physicist Amit Goswami writes:
“Consciousness comes first; it is the ground of all being. Everything else, including matter, is a possibility of consciousness. And consciousness chooses out of these possibilities all the events we experience.”
So if consciousness is embedded in all and our thinking is a movement of consciousness, is it not possible that we do have some mental atmosphere around us? Whether it is “real” or not, we can still use the idea to help us in our daily lives.
How Can We Use Our Mental Atmosphere?
So how can we use this mental atmosphere? Can it be beneficial to us in some way? Holmes, again:
“We have to separate the difference between the desire and the deep thought that reacts to it. We can desire a thing so badly that it almost paralyzes us and still believe we are not going to have it. Therefore, our hope and desire must pass into the certainty of acceptance, and acceptance into an atmosphere of embodiment, a complete realization that this is the way it is.”
What Holmes is getting at here is that there are “levels” to our belief that we are going to receive what it is we are thinking. These levels exist on a continuum. At the lowest level, we believe the opposite of what we desire, thinking we can’t have it. Next, we can desire something and affirm our manifesting it but still harbor inconsistent thoughts on whether or not we will obtain it. At some point our hope we will get it moves to certainty we will….an acceptance. Eventually this sense of inevitability about our receiving is so pervasive in our thinking that it creates an “atmosphere of embodiment”. It simply is. We know it in “our bones”.
So can we sense this atmosphere in ourselves or in others? I believe that we can.
At the personal level, I know a felt difference between when I doubt something, when I hope something, when I have an acceptance of something and when I “know it so deeply that it’s not questioned in the least”. Can you relate?
I have also been around people who exuded an atmosphere that I could pick up on. Sometimes, the atmosphere is negative…..that they are convinced that everything is going to go wrong, they are constantly complaining and they see all of their lives are an accident waiting to happen. These folks and their atmosphere I can’t wait to get away from.
However at other times, I meet people who give off a feeling of something that makes me want to be around them. Sometimes it’s a quiet sense of peacefulness that life is all in its perfect place. At other times, it’s a joyful sense of love for everyone. It can also be an atmosphere of prosperity and abundance where they simply know that whatever they need will be manifesting. Have you been around folks like these?
So how can we move to the level of creating this thought atmosphere around us that is positive and serves our highest for this life? How can we move from acceptance of our good to embodying our good?
Fillmore touched on it in the earlier quote when he said, “When we praise the richness and fullness of God, this thought-stuff is tremendously increased in our mental atmosphere.”
Holmes put it this way, “When we ask for anything, we are to believe that we have it, but we are to ask for that which is in unity with life. This unity includes health, happiness and success. These are native to the atmosphere of God and to the atmosphere of the inner man, which is Christ. Let us dislodge doubt, fear and unbelief and trust implicitly in Good.”
What they are both telling us is that when we look out at life and want to create that highest and best thought atmosphere that will surround and immerse us in the greatest energetic flow of creative energy, it is when we connect with the richness of God, the Unity of life, the power and presence that flows through us and is Good with a capital “G”.
The expansion of our thought atmosphere to these furthest boundaries is somehow connected to the dissipation of our egoic need for personal individual “selfish” gain. We shift our focus from “me” to “we”. We let go of creation for myself and grow our sense of manifestation for the Good of All.
However, we are not “giving up” anything in this equation. We are really birthing a new level of consciousness within us where we see our lives and the goodness of life itself simply being a gift of God that is there for All. When we do so, not only do I lives simply “be joy” and “be love” and be all of the characteristics of the Divine, but they create an atmosphere around us that others want to soak in. We become that person that others want to be around because of how blessed we remind them to feel about their lives.
Finally, are there any “practical” steps for creating this expanded thought atmosphere? We can list a few suggestions here:
- See and feel everything around you as God or Spirit expressing as that thing.
- Know that God or Spirit is expressing as You.
- Know that you and everything around you are interconnected in Oneness.
- Thank God each day for the gift of this life and this experience.
- Know that the gift of this life includes all the Goodness of God: love, health, harmony, joy, prosperity, success and more.
- Accept that this Goodness of God is there for you and every other expression of the One.
- Finally, imagine that cloud of thought energy around you that is created by your thoughts and attracts to you that which you put into the cloud. Build a positive cloud with positive thoughts.
Let us end today with one final quote from Holmes:
“Love is unity, understanding, harmony. It is as necessary to the well-being of the soul as food is for the strength of the body. A life which is starved of love, which knows no affection, is unnatural and abnormal. Love would sit within every person, flowing through and permeating one’s entire being. We truly live in its atmosphere when we meet people through whom love radiates. A unity is formed, harmony is created, and we desire to be in their presence.”
Peace, love and blessings! ~Mark