In his book, Authentic Being, Dr. James R. McCartney purports to compare the philosophical approaches of existentialism and New Thought in order to answer the questions: “What really is authenticity, and what stands in the way of expressing a person’s real self?”
One of the tenets of existentialism is that human existence cannot be defined by conceptual schemes such as those provided by science or religion. Instead, individuals must define themselves through their choices, and take responsibility for those choices. The existential angst associated with this philosophy comes from the individual’s recognition of his complete freedom to make choices in a possibly absurd or meaningless universe and in the individual’s constant awareness of the inevitability of his death.
McCartney embraces the freedom of choice component in existentialism. “We are our choices, good or bad,” he states, “so it is very important to create (choice in action) wisely.” He then overlays this basic criteria with the New Thought premise that God is omnipresent. “God is the transcendent whole of things in which we are each an individualized part.”
In this context, we are each seen as a spiritual beings “born with certain individual characteristics that offer the beginning of authenticity…” The choices we make that enhance and develop these individual characteristics are considered to be authentic.
While McCartney claims to be comparing New Thought to existentialism, his book is clearly skewed in favor of New Thought, and consequently fails to explore some important existential concepts such as angst. Another problem is that the author often uses quotations out of context and fails to annotate them appropriately, his primary sources being Wikipedia and Brainy Quotes.
A cursory treatment, whether in argument or annotation, leads to a mistrust of the source. In order to make his ideas more convincing, therefore, the author would need to adopt a more balanced and detailed approach.
Still, readers who can overlook such issues may find food for thought in these pages.
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