Hopkins, Emma Curtis (1849–1925)
Emma Curtis Hopkins, founder of the popular metaphysical
movement known as New Thought, was born September 2,
1849, in Killingly, Connecticut, of an old New England family.
She received a good education and became a schoolteacher. Attracted
by reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,
the Christian Science textbook, she traveled to Boston in 1883
to attend a class under Mary Baker Eddy. She established herself
as a practitioner and the following year was made editor of
the Christian Science Journal. However, by fall 1885, Hopkins
and Eddy were in conflict over several of Hopkins’s ideas, including
her opinion that Christian Science was not so much a
new revelation as it was a new expression of a perennial philosophy
that had been stated many times previously.
Late in 1885 Hopkins moved to Chicago and established an
independent Christian Science practitioner’s office. The next
year, in spite of her never having taken the advanced course
under Eddy, Hopkins began to teach classes, and her students
began establishing offices as practitioners. Hopkins also began
to hold Sunday services at what became known as the Hopkins
Metaphysical Institute. Her students were organized into an association
similar to that joined by Eddy’s students. Students
were attracted to her from around the country, and Hopkins
traveled to San Francisco and New York in 1887 to teach. By
the end of 1887, branches of her institute could be found across
the United States from Maine to California. As the work matured,
the institute in Chicago was reorganized as the Christian
Science Theological Seminary.
Hopkins began her work as an independent Christian Science
practitioner and teacher. Her several original deviations
from Eddy’s thought led to the development of her own system,
which centered upon mysticism and dropped many particularly
Christian elements. She was intensely antiorganization, a
stance held by many who had come out of the very hierarchically
organized Church of Christ, Scientist. Over the years she attracted
a number of outstanding students, whom she encouraged
to establish independent movements. As independent
Christian Science matured into New Thought, these movements
founded by her students became the leading organizations
of New Thought. Among her students were Malinda
Cramer (founder of Divine Science); Charles and Myrtle Fillmore
(founders of the Unity School of Christianity); Annie Rix
Militz (founder of the Homes of Truth); and Ernest Holmes
(founder of Religious Science).
After a decade in Chicago as an elder of a school and
church, Hopkins turned the work over to her students and in
1894 retired to New York City and lived quietly as a private
tutor to those who wished to study with her one-on-one. During
this period of her life she wrote her mature work, High Mysticism,
which she circulated informally to her students then published
as a series of booklets and as a book.
Because of her withdrawal from the public spotlight and the
desire of several of the founders of the International New
Thought Alliance to project the image that New Thought was
not the offshoot of Christian Science, Hopkins’s role was largely
pushed aside. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who had taught
Mary Baker Eddy for a period, was assigned the role of founder
Hopkins, Budd Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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of New Thought, in spite of his lack of association with the
movement. Only in the 1980s was Hopkins’s role rediscovered
and her place in New Thought history recovered.
Hopkins died April 8, 1925, at her home in Connecticut.
Her work was continued by her sister Estelle Carpenter under
the name High Watch Fellowship. Hopkins’s writings are now
again in print.
Sources
Harley, Gail. ‘‘Emma Curtis Hopkins ‘Forgotten Founder’
of New Thought.’’ Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1991.
Hopkins, Emma Curtis. Class Lessons, 1888. Marina del Rey,
Calif. DeVorss, 1977.
———. High Mysticism. Cornwall Bridge, Conn. High
Watch Fellowship, n.d.
———. Scientific Christian Mental Practice. Cornwall Bridge,
Conn. High Watch Fellowship, 1958.