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Syria: The Power of Positive Thinking but not the End of the Story
by Rene Wadlow
2018-12-24 10:17:19
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On 19 December 2018, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency... We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly.  We've taken back the land.  And now it's time for our troops to come home."

There are those with  a less positive picture of the situation, fearing an attack by Turkish forces against Kurdish areas in Syria.  Others picture a greater role for Russia or Iran due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.  Others see the increased power of the al-Assad government.  All these negative visions have some basis, and we will come back to some of these issues in future presentations.

syria001_400Here I would like to focus only on the importance that a positive view of reality  as a way of bringing about a positive future has in the thinking of President Donald Trump, an issue little stressed in news accounts which have mostly stressed the views of those who raised doubts about the positive view of the situation.

Donald Trump for the many years he was living in New York City was a member of the Marble Collegiate Church whose minister was Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993).  While the church was formally a member of the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church (widely known as the church of the White South Africans) the bulk of the New York congregation was there to listen to the views of Norman Vincent Peale, author of the 1952  book The Power of Positive Thinking which sold several million copies.  In addition to the sermons of Peale, his views were presented in radio broadcasts, newspaper columns and a newsletter Guideposts which had two million readers.

Peale was the son of a U.S. Mid-West Methodist minister, a father who was heavily influenced by the New Thought movements of the U.S. Mid-West in the 1920s and early 1930s.  The emphasis was not on sin and guilt, the core of Dutch Reformed theology, but rather on the power of the mind to influence events. "When you change your thought, you change the world" was a core doctrine.

The thinking of Peale with its emphasis on the power of mind to influence events was appreciated in high political circles. As Peale said "Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failures." Peale was close to Richard Nixson and his family. President Ronald Reagan gave to Peale the Presidential Metal of Freedom, considered the highest civilian honor in the U.S.A.

Peale stressed what is called "The Law of Attraction", an idea which is important in Trump's emphasis on seeing the Syrian situation in a positive light. Peale stressed that "When you expect the best you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of attraction tends to bring the best to you.  The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results."

The thinking of Peale and thus reflected in Trump's is a reflection of a strong current in American religious thinking, usually called New Thought.  One of the leading New Thought writers in the late 1800s was Ralph Waldo Trine whose writings played a role in the thinking of Mahatma Gandhi. Another of the New Thought writers, popular in the Mid-West in the 1920s was Charles F. Haanel.  Haanel developed the ideas both of the power of thought to shape event but also the law of attraction.  As Haanel wrote in his  The New Psychology "The Principle of Attraction operates to bring us only what may be to our advantage.  We are able to consciously control our conditions as we come to sense the purpose of what we attract and are able  to extract from each experience only what we require for our future growth.  Our ability to do this determines the degree of harmony or happiness we attain."

In addition to the strength of the power of thought and the impact of the law of attraction, there is a third theme in the New Thought view which is reflected in Trump's view that ISIS and its negative world view has been defeated for good and that a positive future is now possible.  This third theme is that humanity is now entering a new historic cycle.  This theme has been more central to what has been called "The New Age Movement -The Age of Aquarius". However, the idea was already strongly present in the earlier  New Thought writings.  Thus Haanel wrote "A new civilization is being born: customs, creeds and cruelty are passing: vision, faith, and service are taking their place.  The fetters of tradition are being melted off from humanity, and the dross of militarism and materialism are being consumed. Thought is being liberated, and truth is rising full orbed before an astonished multitude... The whole world is on the eve of a new consciousness, a new power and new realizations of resources within the self.  The last century saw the most magnificent material progress in history.  May the new century produce the greatest progress in mental and spiritual power."

There are still those among the "astonished  multitude" who do not see the defeat of ISIS as a sign that the desired changes in the thinking of the Middle East has already occurred.  However, the power of positive thinking is one hypothesis we most consider seriously.


Rene Wadlow, Presidnt, Association of World Citizens

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