"Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.""Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.""Be interesting, be enthusiastic... and don't talk too much.""Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.""Change your thoughts and you change your world.""Change yourself and your work will seem different.""Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.""Don't take tomorrow to bed with you.""Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don't take yourself so seriously.""Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.""Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds.""Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture... Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.""Four things for success: work and pray, think and believe.""Getting people to like you is merely the other side of liking them.""If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.""If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conducive to your goal.""If you put off everything till you're sure of it, you'll never get anything done.""Imagination is the true magic carpet.""It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.""It's always too early to quit.""One of the greatest moments in anybody's developing experience is when he no longer tries to hide from himself but determines to get acquainted with himself as he really is.""Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.""Promises are like crying babies in a theater, they should be carried out at once.""Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.""Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven't half the strength you think they have.""The Gateway to Christianity is not through an intricate labyrinth of dogma, but by a simple belief in the person of Christ.""The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.""The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.""There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.""Understanding can overcome any situation, however mysterious or insurmountable it may appear to be.""Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind. Start each day by affirming peaceful, contented and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful.""We struggle with the complexities and avoid the simplicities.""We tend to get what we expect.""We've all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it's more important to learn from successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.""When every physical and mental resources is focused, one's power to solve a problem multiplies tremendously.""When you pray for anyone you tend to modify your personal attitude toward him.""You will soon break the bow if you keep it always stretched."
Peale was born in Bowersville, Ohio. He graduated from Bellefontaine High School, Bellefontaine, Ohio. He has earned degrees at Ohio Wesleyan University (where he became a brother of the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta) and Boston University School of Theology.
Raised as a Methodist and ordained as a Methodist minister in 1922, Peale changed his religious affiliation to the Reformed Church in America in 1932 and began a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. During that time the church's membership grew from 600 to over 5000, and he became one of New York City's most famous preachers.
American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry
Peale and Smiley Blanton, a psychoanalyst, established a religio-psychiatric outpatient clinic next door to the church. The two men wrote books together, notably Faith Is the Answer: A Psychiatrist and a Pastor Discuss Your Problems (1940). The book was written in alternating chapters, with Blanton writing one chapter, then Peale, and so on. Blanton espoused no particular religious point of view in his chapters. In 1951 this clinic of psychotherapy and religion grew into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, with Peale serving as president and Blanton as executive director.Blanton handled difficult psychiatric cases and Peale, who had no mental health credentials, handled religious issues. (Meyer, Donald. The Positive Thinkers. Pantheon Books, 1965)
When Peale came under heavy criticism from the mental health community for his controversial book "The Power of Positive Thinking," (1952) Blanton distanced himself from Peale and refused to endorse the book. Blanton did not allow Peale to use his name in "The Power of Positive Thinking," would not publicly endorse the book, and declined to defend Peale publicly when he came under criticism. As scholar Donald Meyer describes it: "Peale evidently imagined that he marched with Blanton in their joint labors in the Religio-psychiatric Institute. This was not exactly so." (Meyer, Donald. Positive Thinkers. Pantheon Books, 1965, p. 266). Meyer notes that Blanton's own book, "Love or Perish, (1956), "contrasted so distinctly at so many points with the Peale evangel," of "positive thinking" that these works had virtually nothing in common. (Ibid., p. 273)
Radio, Television, Writing and organisations
Peale started a radio program, "The Art of Living," in 1935, which lasted for 54 years. Under sponsorship of the National Council of Churches he moved into television when the new medium arrived. In the meantime he had begun to edit the magazine Guideposts and to write books. His sermons were mailed monthly. USdreams.com, Norman Vincent Peale: Turning America On To Positive Thinking
During the depression Peale teamed with James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney & Co.; Arthur Godfrey, the radio and TV personality; and Thomas J. Watson, President and Founder of IBM to form the first board of 40Plus, an organization that helps unemployed managers and executives.
In 1945, Dr. Peale, his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, and Raymond Thornburg, a Pawling, New York businessman founded Guideposts magazine, a non-denominational forum for celebrities and ordinary people to relate inspirational stories. For its launch, they raised $1,200 from Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett newspaper chain, J. Howard Pew, a Philadelphia industrialist and Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Peale was a prolific writer; The Power of Positive Thinking is by far his most widely read work. First published in 1952, it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks, and according to the publisher, Simon and Schuster, the book has sold around 5 million copies. The fact that the book has sold 5 million copies is printed on the cover of the current edition in both paperback and hard cover, and directly contradicts exaggerated claims that the book has sold more than 20 million copies in 42 languages. The publisher also contradicts the translation claim, saying the book has been translated into only 15 languages (publisher's statement on amazon.com describing several TPOPT books, tapes and other media). Nearly half of the sales of the book (2.1 mil.) occurred before 1958 ("Pitchman in the Pulpit." Fuller, Edmund. Saturday Review, March 19, 1957, pp. 28—30), and the book has sold less than 3 million copies over the past 50 years. Some of his other popular works include The Art of Living, A Guide to Confident Living, The Tough-Minded Optimist, and Inspiring Messages for Daily Living.
In 1947 Peale co-founded (along with educator Kenneth Beebe) The Horatio Alger Association. This organization aims to recognize and honor Americans who have been successful in spite of difficult circumstances.
Other organizations founded by Peale include the Peale Center, the Positive Thinking Foundation and Guideposts Publications, all of which aim to promote Peale's theories about positive thinking.
In 1960 Peale, as spokesman for 150 Protestant clergymen, opposed the election of John F. Kennedy as president. "Faced with the election of a Catholic," Peale declared, "our culture is at stake. In a written manifesto Peale and his group also declared JFK would serve the interests of the Catholic church before the interests of the United States: "It is inconceivable that a Roman Catholic president would not be under extreme pressure by the hierarchy of his church to accede to its policies with respect to foreign interests," and that the election of a Catholic might even end free speech in America. Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr responded "Dr. Peale and his associates ... show blind prejudice." Protestant Episcopal Bishop James Pike echoed Neibuhr: "Any argument which would rule out a Roman Catholic just because he is Roman Catholic is both bigotry and a violation of the constitutional guarantee of no religious test for public office." The Peale statement was further condemned by President Truman, the Board of Rabbis, and other leading Protestants such as Paul Tillich and John C. Bennett. Peale recanted his statements and was later fired by his own committee. As conservative William F. Buckley succinctly described the fallout: "When ... The Norman Vincent Peale Committee was organized, on the program that a vote for Kennedy was a vote to repeal the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Jesuits fired their Big Bertha, and Dr. Peale fled from the field, mortally wounded." Peale subsequently went into hiding and threatened to resign from his church. The fallout continued as Peale was condemned in a statement by one hundred religious leaders and dropped as a syndicated columnist by a dozen newspapers. After the uproar the pastor backed off from further formal partisan commitments.
Peale is also remembered in politics by the Adlai Stevenson quote: "I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling." The origin of the quote can be traced to the 1952 election, when Stevenson was informed by a reporter that Peale had been attacking him as unfit for the presidency because he was divorced. Later during the 1956 campaign for President against Eisenhower, Stevenson was somewhat rudely introduced in the following way: "Gov. Stevenson, we want to make it clear you are here as a courtesy because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has instructed us to vote for your opponent." Stevenson stepped to the podium and quipped, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling." In 1960 Stevenson was asked by a reporter for a comment regarding Peale attacking JFK as unfit for the presidency because he was Catholic, to which Stevenson responded: "Yes, you can say that I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling."
Stevenson continued to lampoon Peale on the campaign trail in speeches for JFK. Though Nixon and the Republicans tried to distance themselves from the furor caused by Peale's anti-Catholic stance, Democrats did not let voters forget. President Truman, for one, accused Nixon of tacit approval of the anti-Catholic sentiment, and it remained a hot issue on the campaign trail. Regarding Peale's intrusion into Republican politics, Stevenson said in this transcript of a speech given in San Francisco: "Richard Nixon has tried to step aside in favor of Norman Vincent Peale (APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER) ... We can only surmise that Mr. Nixon has been reading 'The Power of Positive Thinking.' (APPLAUSE). America was not built by wishful thinking. It was built by realists, and it will not be saved by guess work and self-deception. It will only saved by hard work and facing the facts."
At a later date, according to one report, Stevenson and Peale met, and Stevenson apologized to Peale for any personal pain his comments might have caused Peale, though he never publicly recanted the substance of his statements. There is no record of Peale apologizing to Stevenson for his attacks on Stevenson. It has been argued that even his "positive thinking" message was by implication politically conservative: "The underlying assumption of Peale's teaching was that nearly all basic problems were personal."
Peale was politically and personally close to President Richard Nixon's family. In 1968 he officiated at the wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower. He continued calling at the White House throughout the Watergate crisis, saying "Christ didn't shy away from people in trouble."
He was also the subject of the 1964 film One Man's Way.
Peale was also a Scottish Rite Freemason (33°). SRMason-SJ.org, Freemasonry and Religion
For his contributions to the field of theology, President Ronald Reagan awarded Peale the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the United States) on March 26, 1984. He died of stroke on December 24, 1993 at age 95 in Pawling, New York.
Peale's works came under criticism from several mental health experts, one of whom directly said Peale was a con man and a fraud. These critics appeared in the early 1950s after the publication of The Power of Positive Thinking.
Hard to substantiate
One major criticism of The Power of Positive Thinking is that the book is full of anecdotes that are hard to substantiate. Almost all of the experts and many of the testimonials that Peale quotes as supporting his philosophy are unnamed, unknown and unsourced. Examples include a "famous psychologist,", a two-page letter from a "practicing physician," another famous psychologist, a "prominent citizen of New York City," and dozens, if not hundreds, more unverifiable quotations. Similar scientific studies of questionable validity are also cited. As psychiatrist R. C. Murphy exclaimed "All this advertising is vindicated as it were, by a strict cleaving to the side of part truth," and referred to the work and the quoted material as "implausible and woodenly pious."
A second major accusation of Peale is that he attempts to conceal that his "techniques" are actually a scientifically well known form of hypnosis, and that Peale attempts to persuade his readers to follow his beliefs through a combination of self-hypnosis and false evidence. While his techniques are not debated by psychologists, Dr. Peale's said his theological practice and strategy was directed more at self analysis, forgiveness, character development, and growth much like the Jesuits of the Catholic Church.
Peale asserts that practicing his "techniques" will give the reader absolute self confidence and deliverance from suffering. The critics, in turn, assert that the repetitive "techniques" are actually a well known form of hypnosis (autosuggestion), hidden under a thin guise with the use of terms which may sound more benign from the reader's point of view ("techniques", "formulas," "methods," "prayers," and "prescriptions."). One author called Peale's book "The Bible of American autohypnotism."
Psychiatrist R.C. Murphy writes "Self knowledge, in Mr. Peale's understanding is unequivocally bad: self hypnosis is good." Murphy adds that the repeated hypnosis defeats an individual's self motivation, self knowledge, unique sense of self, sense of reality, and the ability to think critically. Murphy calls Peale's understanding of the mind inaccurate, "without depth," and Peale's description of the workings of the mind and the unconscious mind as deceptively simplistic and false: "It is the very shallowness of his concept of 'person' that makes his rules appear easy ... If the unconscious of man ... can be conceptualized as a container for a small number of psychic fragments, then ideas like 'mind-drainage' follow. So does the reliance on self-hypnosis, which is the cornerstone of Mr. Peale's philosophy.'"
Psychologist Albert Ellis, the founder of cognitive therapy and influential psychologist of the 20th century, compares the Peale techniques with those of the hypnotist Emile Coue, and Ellis says that the repeated use of these hypnotic techniques could lead to significant mental health problems. Ellis has documented in several books the many individuals he has treated who suffered mental breakdowns from following Peale's teachings. Ellis' writings repeatedly warn the public not to follow the Peale message. Ellis contends the Peale approach is dangerous, distorted, unrealistic. He compares the black or white view of life that Peale teaches to a psychological disorder (Borderline personality disorder), perhaps implying that dangerous mental habits which he sees in the disorder may be brought on by following the teaching. "In the long run [Peale's teachings] lead to failure and disillusionment, and not only boomerang back against people, but often prejudice them against effective therapy."
A third major criticism is that Peale's philosophy is based on exaggerating the fears of his readers and followers, and that this exaggerated fear inevitably leads to aggression and the destruction of those considered "negative." Peale's views are critically reviewed in a 1955 article by psychiatrist R. C. Murphy, published in The Nation, titled "Think Right: Reverend Peale's Panacea."
With saccharine terrorism, Mr. Peale refuses to allow his followers to hear, speak or see any evil. For him real human suffering does not exist; there is no such thing as murderous rage, suicidal despair, cruelty, lust, greed, mass poverty, or illiteracy. All these things he would dismiss as trivial mental processes which will evaporate if thoughts are simply turned into more cheerful channels. This attitude is so unpleasant it bears some search for its real meaning. It is clearly not a genuine denial of evil but rather a horror of it. A person turns his eyes away from human bestiality and the suffering it evokes only if he cannot stand to look at it. By doing so he affirms the evil to be absolute, he looks away only when he feels that nothing can be done about it ... The belief in pure evil, an area of experience beyond the possibility of help or redemption, is automatically a summons to action: 'evil' means 'that which must be attacked ... ' Between races for instance, this belief leads to prejudice. In child-rearing it drives parents into trying to obliterate rather than trying to nurture one or another area of the child's emerging personality ... In international relationships it leads to war. As soon as a religious authority endorses our capacity for hatred, either by refusing to recognize unpleasantness in the style of Mr Peale or in the more classical style of setting up a nice comfortable Satan to hate, it lulls our struggles for growth to a standstill ... Thus Mr Peale's book is not only inadequate for our needs but even undertakes to drown out the fragile inner voice which is the spur to inner growth.
Harvard Scholar Donald Meyer would seem to agree with this assessment, presenting similar warnings of a religious nature. In his article "Confidence Man", Meyer writes, "In more classic literature, this sort of pretension to mastery has often been thought to indicate an alliance with a Lower rather than a Higher power." The mastery Peale speaks of is not the mastery of skills or tasks, but the mastery of fleeing and avoiding one's own "negative thoughts." Meyer writes this exaggerated fear inevitably leads to aggression:"[B]attle it is; Peale, in sublime betrayal of the aggression within his philosophy of peace, talks of 'shooting' prayers at people."
Psychologist Martin Seligman, former APA president and the founder of the branch of psychology known as "positive psychology", says "positive thinking" (bearing no resemblance to his own "positive psychology") is unproven, dangerous. He cautions readers not to confuse the two approaches. "First, positive thinking is an armchair activity. Positive psychology, on the other hand, is tied to a program of empirical and replicable scientific activity ... Where accuracy is tied to potentially catastrophic outcomes (for example, when an airline pilot is deciding whether to de-ice the wings of her airplane) we should all be pessimists ... Positive psychology is a supplement to negative psychology, not a substitute.".
The Rev. Billy Graham said at the National Council of Churches on June 12, 1966 that "I don't know of anyone who had done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me."
Upon hearing of Dr. Peale's death, U.S. President Bill Clinton had this to say:The name of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale will forever be associated with the wondrously American values of optimism and service. Dr. Peale was an optimist who believed that, whatever the antagonisms and complexities of modern life brought us, anyone could prevail by approaching life with a simple sense of faith. And he served us by instilling that optimism in every Christian and every other person who came in contact with his writings or his hopeful soul. In a productive and giving life that spanned the 20th century, Dr. Peale lifted the spirits of millions and millions of people who were nourished and sustained by his example, his teaching, and his giving. While the Clinton family and all Americans mourn his loss, there is some poetry in his passing on a day when the world celebrates the birth of Christ, an idea that was central to Dr. Peale's message and Dr. Peale's work. He will be missed.
Evangelist Robert Schuller has praised him, too. LetUsReason.org, Norman Vincent Peale
Peale is referred to in the song "The John Birch Society" by the Chad Mitchell Trio ("Norman Vincent Peale may think he's kidding us along ...")
Peale is sarcastically referred to as a "deep philosopher" in the Tom Lehrer song "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier" (on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, 1959).
In the "Treehouse of Horror VI" episode of The Simpsons, a building with the sign "Birthplace of Norman Vincent Peale" is destroyed.
In POWER OF THE PLUS FACTOR (p. 39) Peale states that one of the most remarkable men he ever met was a native of Lebanon of Palestinian origin, Musa Alami.
A clip of Peale's radio program is heard briefly in the film Grey Gardens (1975), and Peale himself appears as a character in the musical based on the film (2006).
A widely reprinted editorial in the Los Angeles Times says that the 2006 book and DVD The Secret both borrow some of Peale's ideas, and that The Secret suffers from some of the same weaknesses as Peale's works. LAtimes.com, accessdate 2007-01-13
M*A*S*H episode 135 (The Smell of Music) contains a grossly injured soldier (guest star Jordan Clarke) who rejects counsel from Col. Potter (Harry Morgan), stating, "Doc, if there's one thing I don't need right now it's a Norman Vincent Peale sermon ..."
In the fourth episode ("The Bracelet") of the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm", Larry David calls Richard Lewis "Norman Vincent Lewis" after he says, "Every day is a great day for me."
In the American film The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004, directed by Niels Mueller), Manager Jack Jones (Jack Thompson) tries to convince his employee Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn), a disillusioned salesman with a history of short-lived jobs, to believe truly in the products he’s selling and to follow the concept of positive thinking. Then he asks his son Martin to hand over a couple of books to Bicke, one of them is Norman Vincent Peale's “The Power of Positive Thinking”.