The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Born in Bowersville, Ohio, on May 31, 1898, Norman Vincent Peale was one of the most influential clergymen in the United States of the 20th century. Educated at Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University, he was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church and served as pastor at a succession of churches that included Berkeley, Rhode Island, Brooklyn, and Syracuse before changing his affiliation to the Dutch Reformed Church to become pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, where he served for fifty-two years. From the pulpit of Marble, Peale became famous for his sermons on a positive approach to modern living, which were regularly broadcast, first on radio and later on television. For 54 years Peale’s weekly program, “The Art of Living,” was broadcast on NBC. His sermons were mailed to 750,000 people a month. His life was subject of a 1964 motion picture, One Man’s Way. Dr. Peale grew the congregation from 600 members when he arrived to pastor in 1932 to over 5,000 by the time he retired in 1984. From 1969-70, he served as president of the Reformed Church in America.
Dr. Peale told how, in his youth, he had “the worst inferiority complex of all,” which led him to develop his positive thinking/positive confession philosophy and theology. In 1937, Peale established a mental health clinic with Freudian psychiatrist Dr. Smiley Blanton in the basement of the Marble Collegiate Church. The “Religio-Psychiatric Clinic” has been described by Carol George as having “a theoretical base that was Jungian, with a strong evidence of neo- and post-Freudianism.” The Clinic grew to an operation with dozens of psychiatrists and pastoral counselors, and in 1951 became known as the American Foundation for Religion and Psychiatry. In 1972, it merged with the Academy of Religion and Mental Health to form the Institutes of Religion and Health (IRH). In the 1970s, the organization was renamed in honor of its co-founders as the Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center. Until his death, Peale remained affiliated with Blanton-Peale as president of the board and chief fund raiser.
Peale applied Christianity to everyday problems and is credited with bringing psychology into the professing Church, blending its principles into a message of “positive thinking.” In Peale’s words, “through prayer you ... make use of the great factor within yourself, the deep subconscious mind ... the kingdom of God within you ... Positive thinking is just another term for faith.” Dr. Peale also cited Blanton to provide a psychological basis for the power of positive thinking “As the late Dr. Smiley Blanton, a famous psychiatrist, used to say, ‘God presides in the subconscious.’ Therefore, an affirmation, being a positive form of prayer to God, stimulates power in the inward state that is manifested in the outward state to produce well-being.”
In 1945, Peale and his wife Ruth Stafford Peale started Guideposts magazine; with a worldwide circulation now in the tens of millions, the largest of any religious magazine. Peale published several best-selling books, including The Art of Living, Confident Living, The Power of Positive Thinking, and, with Smiley Blanton, Faith is the Answer. The Power of Positive Thinking, his most popular book, has sold more than 20 million copies in 41 languages. With his wife, Ruth, Dr. Peale founded the Foundation for Christian Living in 1945, which continues as the Outreach Ministries of Guideposts International. Norman Vincent Peale died on December 24, 1993, at 95.
About Dr. Peale, Smiley Blanton said the following: “Dr Peale is a great pioneer. He was one of the first men – if not the first – to combine the new science of human behavior known as depth psychology with the discipline of religion. As a result, he has been able to help more people than either religion or depth psychology could help, acting alone.”
Smiley Blanton, M.D.
Smiley Blanton, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, was born in 1882 in Unionville, Tennessee, and died on October 30, 1966, in New York. A patient of Sigmund Freud, his Diary of My Analysis with Sigmund Freud appeared in 1971. Born into a Presbyterian family, he studied medicine at Cornell University, became an M.D. in 1914, and was trained in psychiatry by Dr. A. Meyers at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore. After serving in World War I, he received a degree in neurology and psychological medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in London in 1922-23.
Dr. Blanton taught at the University of Minneapolis, where he had created the first child guidance clinic associated with a public school; then, in 1927, created a nursery school at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Two years later he moved to New York City, intending to practice psychoanalysis. Through George Amsden, who was leaving to be analyzed by Sándor Ferenczi, he replaced Clinton McCord, who had just finished his analysis with Freud.
The first period of the analysis began on August 31, 1929, in Berchtesgaden, where Freud spent his vacations. Blanton later described his first meeting with Freud: “A small, frail and graying man suddenly appeared and moved toward me to greet me. Although he seemed older than in the photographs I was familiar with, I recognized the silhouette that approached me to be that of Freud. Cigar in hand, he spoke to me almost timidly.”
Blanton took great care in recording Freud’s remarks, which were frequent and lengthy. Freud also provided numerous suggestions on analytic technique, avoided interpreting his patient's colitis, asked him not to write down his dreams, and added, “For an analyst not to relate his dreams, now that’s a sign of serious resistance!” From September to the end of October 1929, Blanton followed Freud to the Schloss Tegel clinic in Berlin, and then resumed his analysis in Vienna. He was again forced to interrupt his analysis at the end of April when Freud went to the Sanatorium Cottage of Vienna and then to Berlin for treatment of his heart problems. At the end of Blanton's analysis, on May 30, 1930, Freud provided him with a letter of recommendation to Ernest Jones: “I would like to introduce you to Dr. Smiley Blanton. He is a pleasant man, especially interested in the orientation of children (Vassar College). He has undergone six months of personal analysis with me; I think he will return home a sincere believer in PsA.”
Five years later, in August 1935, Blanton had a further two weeks of analysis with Freud, who was then at his vacation home in Grinzing. Freud accepted payments before the sessions began by saying, “I accept them on account. If I happen to die before the fortnight is over, they will be returned to you!” During the analysis Freud spoke about Ferenczi and technique—Blanton was now seeing patients of his own—signed a copy of the Interpretation of Dreams for him, and, when Blanton left on August 17, after expressing his wish to return the following year, responded, “I regret that I cannot promise I will be here.” However, two years later, on August 1, 1937, Blanton was again in Grinzing with Freud. He described him as “more alert and more dynamic than he was two years ago.” In London, on August 30, 1938, Blanton saw Freud for a final week of therapy that lasted until September 7, the day before Freud was scheduled for a new operation. Blanton resumed his habit of recording his dreams and investigating the resistance that occurred during their interpretation. As for Freud, “he appeared to me as dynamic, alert, and lucid as ever.” But, Freud confided to him, “At my age it’s natural that one thinks of death. Those who think about death and talk about it are those who are not afraid, while those who are afraid neither think about it nor talk about it.” Blanton added, on September 5, 1938, “In reading these pages, it will become apparent that the professor spoke often to me of death.”
Beginning in 1937, Blanton collaborated with Norman Vincent Peale in establishing the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry. They opened the Religio-Psychiatric Clinic at the Marble Collegiate Church, where free assistance was offered to people suffering from emotional disturbances such as anxiety and depression. The clinic also trained clergymen of all denominations to help people deal with their emotional difficulties. Blanton and Peale wrote several books together, most notably their first collaboration, Faith Is the Answer: A Pastor and a Psychiatrist Discuss Your Problems.