Hopkins, Emma Curtis (1849-1925)
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 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.
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.