Horatio Dresser

The Power of Silence

From the Preface:

THIS volume is the first of a series of studies of the inner life the main purpose of which is twofold. The point of approach is from the side of practical experience, and the first object is the development of a practical method. But, incidentally, it is hoped that the facts and values of this practical study may be of service to philosophy. In fact, the production of these volumes was begun with the conviction that philosophy and life may be brought nearer, that practical interests put new demands upon philosophy; while the practical man may be greatly benefited by the study of idealistic first principles. Hence the point of view is midway between the world of exact thinking and the world of actual living. The interest is not primarily psychological; nor is it ethical or religious. Yet all of these interests play a part. That is to say, aside from one's particular faith, there seems to be a demand for a new science and a new art: the art and science of the inner life investigated in the freest spirit without regard to specific doctrines. Such a science has become a necessity because of the failure of other inquiries to push through to the heart of reality in the inner world. The art is needed to solve the problems which remain over when it is a question of the more practical application of the precepts of ethics, religion, and philosophy. For the conventional systems often fail to make clear precisely how a man should begin to live the better life.


No name stands out more prominently in the history of the New Thought movement than that of the Dressers. Horatio W. Dresser, son of Julius A. and Annetta Seabury Dresser, was perhaps the most prolific writer yet developed within the movement.

Young Horatio learned book-keeping and worked for the editor of the New England Farmer, writing shorthand and reading proof, later serving as book-keeper and business manager. Much of his life was thereafter to be linked with editing, writing, and publishing. In 1883 he took up a study of Emerson and other great writers and copied for his father the Quimby Manuscripts loaned to him by George Quimby.

 In 1884, at the age of 18, he began to practice mental healing along with his parents. His first publication was a lecture entitled "The Immanent God" in 1894 while he was still a college undergraduate. The following year saw the publication of his first full-length book, "The Power of Silence." By 1903 that book had gone through fifteen editions.

 Meanwhile he had undertaken graduate work in the department of philosophy at Harvard, studying with William James, Josiah Royce, and others. He received the master's degree in 1904 and the Ph.D., also from Harvard, in 1907. He was an assistant in the philosophy department at Harvard for several years, and enjoyed the friendship particularly of William James. It was this, in part at least, that gave Professor James his insight into the New Thought movement, which he classed among "the religions of healthy-mindedness" in his classic work "Varieties of Religious Experience." 

All during these years Dresser was writing and publishing. In 1896 he began the publication of a monthly magazine, "Journal of Practical Metaphysics,"with the avowed principle of "being helpful in the conduct of life, to prepare the way for a better, more harmonious, rational, and ethical life, and to derive this help from all the resources of human thought."

Dresser's volume entitled "The Power of Silence," as already indicated, was immensely popular. Soon followed "The Perfect Whole," and by 1897 a publisher had brought out, under the title of "The Heart of It," major extracts from those two books, while the same year he added "In Search of a Soul." In 1898 came "Voices of Hope;" in 1899, "Voices of Freedom and Methods and Problems of Spiritual Healing;" in 1900, "Living by the Spirit," and "Education and the Philosophic Ideal." At this time he was still only thirty-four years of age. Meanwhile he was turning out magazine articles and doing editorial work as well. And he found some time for active organizational work in the Boston Metaphysical Club and the International Metaphysical League.

 In 1917 he edited "The Spirit of New Thought," a collection of addresses and essays by major New Thought leaders, and wrote "Handbook of New Thought," one of the simplest and most satysfying statements of the central features of the movement. Then he was invited to write "The History of the New Thought Movement," which he did, publishing it in 1919. Two years later he laid the whole metaphysical movement deeply in his debt by publishing his very important "The Quimby Manuscripts."