The Legacy of Thomas Cogswell Upham

An American Psychology of Holiness and Peace

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Thomas Cogswell Upham (1799 – 1872) dominated American academic psychology in the mid-19'th century. Though little remembered today, there is much in his work to warrant attention by modern readers and scholars. In particular, Upham attempted, and, to a very significant degree, succeeded, to meld scientific psychology with practical spirituality.

         1 Life
         2 Works
         3 Theories
             3.1 Epistemology
             3.2 Anthropology
             3.3 Mysticism: The Unitive Life
             3.4 Positive psychology
         4 Significance
         Reference Notes
         Upham Bibliography


At first glance, Upham's biography might suggest the stereotype of a dutiful academic, quietly teaching and publishing in a university career spanning many decades. His popular and extremely successful textbooks brought prestige and funds to Bowdoin College, nestled in the picturesque, coastal hamlet of Brunswick, Maine. Upham's personality -- shy, bookish, conscientious and, self-effacing to a fault -- only contributes to the stereotype. Yet at the same time we must recognize the extraordinary activity of Upham, not in the sense of an obvious, frenetic energy, but in his ability to accomplish so much, through persistence and diligence, in so may fields. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, Upham was an accomplished poet, a recognized leader in the New England anti-war and abolition movements, and, if we may characterize his involvement with the 'holiness movement' in such terms, a religious reformer.

A chronology of Upham's life is as follows:

  • Born, 1799, Deerfield, New Hampshire
  • Father, Nathaniel Upham, a U.S. Congressman from New Hampshire and a Jeffersonian Republican
  • Family moved to Rochester, New Hampshire
  • American Sketches (1819) - poetry
  • Graduated Dartmouth College, 1821
  • Marriage to Phebe Lord (1804 – 1882)
  • Andover Seminary (3 years; outstanding student)
  • Pastor at the Congregational Church in Rochester, NH (2 years, 1823 - 1824)
  • Professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy, Bowdoin College, Maine (1825 – 1867)
  • Elements of Intellectual Philosophy (1st. ed., 1827)
  • Mental Philosophy (2 vols; 1831)
  • Treatise on the Will (1834; "regarded perhaps as his ablest production")
  • Religious Offerings (1835) - poetry
  • Manual of Peace (1836)
  • Collaboration with Phoebe Palmer (1839 – 40), Methodist and pioneer of the 'holiness movement'
  • Outlines of Imperfect and Disordered Mental Action (1840)
  • Prize Essays on a Congress of Nations (1840)
  • Vice-president, American Peace Society (1843 - 1872)
  • Principles of Interior or Hidden Life (1844)
  • Religious Maxims (1846)
  • Madame Guyon (1847; 1858; 1862])
  • American Cottage Life (1850) - poetry
  • The Uphams befriend Harriet Beecher Stowe (early 1850s); hosted her while she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin); the Upham home was reportedly part of the Underground Railroad.
  • Travel - Upham visited England and Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, Egypt and the Holy Land (1852)
  • The Life of Faith (1857)
  • Treatise on Divine Union (1857)
  • Retired from Bowdoin (1867)
  • Moved to Kennebunkport (Phebe's hometown)
  • Honorary Doctor of Law, Rutgers College, New York (1870)
  • Christ in the Soul (1872) - poetry
  • Passes away following stroke; last coherent words reportedly: "My soul... is with God" (1872)


Upham's written corpus can be divided into four categories: (1) academic psychology; (2) spirituality (with an emphasis on interior mental life, ascetical psychology, and Christian mysticism); (3) peace; and (4) poetry. Most of his major works are listed in the Bibliography section below.

Many of Upham's books, especially his academic texts, were reprinted many times. His Elements of Mental Philosophy, for example, was printed and reprinted in various forms over 50 times during his life. This complicates citation slightly -- and one is never quite sure what minor editing occurred from one version to the next -- but this is a negligible issue.

Upham wrote in a deliberate, thoughtful style, ever precise in its choice of terms, and subtle in nuance. His psychological works are not difficult, but their precise style does require attentive reading. A practical suggestion for the prospective student of Upham would be to begin with his more accessible works, for example, his biographies of Catherine of Genoa or Madame Guyon, in order to gain familiarity with his style, before tackling the more academic works.  


Here we do not attempt a comprehensive or detailed presentation of Upham's theories. Rather, the goal is to present some of his leading ideas -- chiefly by means of extracts -- with the hope of eliciting in readers an interest in consulting Upham's works directly.

Upham's theories can be understood with reference to four areas: his epistemology, his anthropological model, his view of the end, telos, or good, towards with human activity is directed, and, last, what we may term his ascetical-mystical psychology.

3.1 Epistemology

Upham accepted introspection as a legitimate and indispensable basis of scientific psychology. He repeatedly asserted the value of introspection, as, for example, in the introduction to Treatise on the Will:

"In entering upon a discussion of the various questions, connected with the Will, it is perhaps proper to remark upon the course, which we deem it expedient to pursue. It will be our desire to rely mainly upon facts, and the obvious deductions from them; and to avoid, as much as possible, mere speculation. The indulgence of speculation is often flattering to pride of intellect, and is perhaps indicative of the consciousness of mental power; but it is not on all subjects, unless controlled and mitigated by a frequent recurrence to facts, favorable to the ascertainment of truth. The inquiries before us, so far at least as the mode of conducting them is concerned, ought to be prosecuted in essentially the same manner as our inquiries into the physical world. What we wish to know are the simple facts that exist, and the general laws which they obviously develope and prove, in distinction from mere conjectures, however ingenious they may be." (Treatise on the Will 1.1, p. 17)

The "facts" here include the conscious awareness of mental processes and states, made evident by introspection. Thus, for Upham, introspection is consistent with, not opposed to, the scientific method of the physical sciences. Reliance on introspective data is, in part, a necessity, since many of the most important elements of psychological life –- for example, happiness, love, insight, virtue -– are by nature private. A scientific method that neglects such private events, or which suggests that, because they are not capable of public observation and measurement, they are of little scientific value or interest, is of limited value.

To affirm the value private mental events in scientific psychology, Upham appealed to both the subjective salience of these states -- that is, it is plainly evident to each person that he or she has such experiences -- and to the reasonably uncontroversial premise that these states are universal, such that all men and women experience them in at least fairly similar ways:

"As the emotions are simple states of the mind, it would be of no avail to attempt to define them; but the knowledge of them must be left to the testimony of each one's consciousness. But it is to be presumed, that no one is ignorant of what is meant when we speak of cheerfulness, of wonder, of melancholy, of beauty, grandeur, and the like." (Treatise on the Will 3.25, p. 55)
Another example will help show the importance Upham placed on introspection and common experience:
"It is exceedingly desirable, that every one should reflect carefully and patiently upon the nature of desire and the nature of volition, as they present themselves to our internal notice in those various circumstances of enticement and temptation and action, in which we daily find ourselves placed. Those cases in particular deserve notice, which not unfrequently occur, where the volitions exist, and where we resolve to carry our plans into effect, in disregard of certain opposing desires, which have been overruled and baffled. Has not every man had this experience?" (Treatise on the Will 5.47, pp. 87-89)

He understood the negative reaction this approach might provoke:

"We are aware, that this proposed course is not altogether in accordance with what is termed the spirit of the age, which seems to call constantly for exaggeration; for what is novel, strange, and unprecedented; for something that will arouse and astonish, rather than convince. But this diseased and inordinate appetite for novelty and excitement ought to be rebuked rather than encouraged; and least of all should it be permitted to find nourishment and support in the calm regions of philosophy. Let us then proceed … relying chiefly upon facts and the legitimate inferences which they furnish, and indulging as little as possible in speculation, be content with what we may be able to establish on a firm foundation, without complaining, that our limited and imperfect powers require some things to be left in obscurity. (Treatise on the Will 1.1, pp. 18-19)
Upham's approach, uniting introspection and mental philosophy, follows the Enlightenment tradition pioneered by John Locke, and perhaps even more reflects the influence of the Scottish Common Sense school of philosophy. That tradition, associated with Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, Sir James Mackintosh and others, upheld the value of introspection and maintained that any true psychology must conform to the common views of humankind, which are generally a more reliable guide to truth than elaborate theories. Further, colloquial language, which tends to express the common views and insights of humankind, was also considered to constitute valid empirical data on which to base scientific analysis and theoretical inquiry.

Partly due to this epistemology, Upham's psychology was able to place strong emphasis on the interior life of the person, exploring its subtleties in ways that would be difficult or impossible if one were restricted to a positivist, behaviorist, or physiological reductionist scientific method.

3.2 Anthropology

There is a remarkable unity and coherence to Upham's writings, psychological, biographical and devotional. At the foundation of his anthropology is a three-fold distinction between the 'departments', as he called them, of the human mind, which he denoted the Intellect, the Sensibilities, and the Will.

In his system, the Intellect includes attention, understanding, memory, imagination, consciousness, and sensation. The Sensibilities encompass the emotions and passions. The Will includes volitions and certain associated mental events.

Upham placed special attention on the Will, seeing in its proper functioning the highest expression of human worth and ethics:

"The will, therefore, is the culminating point in man's spiritual nature. It sits the witness and the arbitress over all the rest. It is essential alike to action and accountability, to freedom and order, to intelligence and virtue. Without this all else is nothing. It is in reference to this, that all other susceptibilities keep their station, and perform their functions. They revolve around it as a common centre, attracted by its power, and controlled by its ascendency." (Treatise on the Will 4.36, p. 72)

It will be observed that this tripartite system is a functional division. It is not based on physiology, but rather is suggested and lent evidence by introspection, by custom, and by the conventions of language. Such a functional typology, while it may seem foreign to modern students of psychology, nevertheless has the distinct advantage of supplying a single, integrated model for understanding the human person. Further, it conforms to how we think about ourselves privately; in that sense it is satisfying to the person who wishes to gain self-knowledge, and it supplies concepts and terms that facilitate self-observation and self-understanding.

3.3 Mysticism: The Unitive Life

The mysticism of Upham is apparent throughout his devotional writings; there are intimations of it on nearly every page. Upham believed there is a definite end, telos, or 'good' towards which human activity and development tend. This end, for Upham, can be described in various ways, but perhaps is best characterized as union with God, or, stated more precisely, a state of union or alignment of the personal will with the Divine Will.

We should point out that religious mysticism itself has several aspects. Traditionally, the mystical life is divided into what are called the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive phases. Upham devotes relatively little attention the illuminative aspect of mysticism. Unlike, say, William James, he does not attempt a meticulous analysis of exceptional mystical experiences such as enlightenment, ecstasy, or rapture. It is really his treatment of the unitive aspect of mysticism, that draws our attention. Drawing on his experience with mental philosophy and an interest in the lives of such Christian mystics as Madame Guyon and St. Catherine of Genoa, and combining these with the millennial spirit that characterized 19th century American Protestantism, Upham wished nothing less than to present a system of deep, complete, yet eminently practical holiness for the 'average' Christian to follow.

The literature of religious mysticism abounds with descriptions of what is sometimes termed the unitive state, a potentially transitory state, and also of a more enduring Unitive Life, for which the unitive state forms a foundation. Many readers will associate these terms with Christian mysticism. Underhill, for example, treats them extensively in her classic work on Christian mysticism, Mysticism(1910). A good biographical work illustrating the Unitive Life may be found in The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.

Other traditions in which the unitive state and life figure prominently include Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism (see e.g., the poetry of Rumi) and Native American traditions.

As with most religious experiences, the essence of the unitive state can be fully appreciated only by direct experience. However we may note some of its more commonly mentioned features. Positive qualities include the following:

  • a feeling of wholeness and completeness;
  • strong conviction of God's ongoing providential care, and that whatever is happening is just as it should be. "All is well, all will be well", as Julian of Norwich put it;
  • deep appreciation of the beauty and sanctity of Nature;
  • firm attention to the 'here and now';
  • enhanced clarity, depth, and expansion of the perceptual field;
  • a deep sense of love for others;
  • feelings of peace, gentleness;
  • exceptional poise and physical agility;
  • a sense that the world is magical;
  • diminished ego and egoism.
Among the 'negative; qualities are absence of: fear, anxiety, regrets, ruminations, scheming about the future, and the various other negative emotions and thoughts which characterize ordinary waking life.

It seems reasonable to suggest, from the consistency of descriptions of the unitive state and its resemblance to certain other states, including aesthetic experiences and some forms of intoxication, that we are here dealing with a more-or-less distinct state of consciousness, with specific cognitive, perceptual, and emotional features.

The following story helps identify some further principles of the unitive state:

A Chinese sage was walking with a student through a forest. The student remarked that, as it had been two days since their last meal, he was faint with hunger, and he asked when they might eat. The sage then stretched arm over a stream beside the path. At the same moment, a trout jumped out of the stream and into his hand. "Will this do?", the sage asked?

After they cooked and ate the fish, the student inquired, "Master, did you cause the fish to jump into your hand, or were you acting on a premonition?" "Neither", the sage replied. "I just felt an impulse to stretch out my arm, and at the same time the fish felt an impulse to jump."

The mystic in a unitive state may experience a synchronization of expectations, wishes, and external events. The student's hunger, the propitious stream, the outstretched arm, and the fish's leap -- all occurred according to the harmonious and providential design of Nature or Nature's God. The master had no anxiety about where food would come from. The universe simply supplied whatever was necessary.

This is, no doubt, one of the reasons such states are called 'unitive'. It is not just that the individual personality becomes more integrated, or that the soul becomes more united with God. There is also a profound integration of ones mental and physical life with the Natural world, so that the entire experience of living becomes sacred and whole, even miraculous.

The unitive state is a building block on which the mystic constructs a new personality, a new egoless ego as it were. From this comes the Unitive Life. The point is expressed well by Delacroix:

"The beginning of the mystic life, introduced into the personal life of the subject a group of states which are distinguished by certain characteristics, and which form, so to speak, a special psychological system. At its term, it has, as it were, suppressed the ordinary self, and by the development of this system has established a new personality with a new method of feeling and of action. Its growth results in the transformation of personality: it abolishes the primitive consciousness of selfhood, and substitutes for it a wider consciousness, the total disappearance of selfhood in the divine, the substitution of a Divine Self for the primitive self." (Henri Delacroix. Études sur le Mysticism, Paris, 1908, p. 197; quoted in Underhill, Mysticism, 1930, p. 416-7).

Some further quotes by Upham will illustrate how closely his ideas conform to classical notions of mysticism as outlined above.

For Upham, the state of union is all encompassing, and affects the entirety of a person. To the extent that all mental processes become perfectly aligned with God and God's will, they are also perfectly harmonized among themselves interiorly:

"Man's moral agency, when he exists in full union with God, either in his original creation or in his restoration to God through Christ, is felt, not so much in guiding himself as in harmonizing with God's guidance; — not so much in originating knowledge and holy affections, as in rejecting all confidence in himself and accepting God as his teacher: — in a word, not so much in willing or purposing to do whatever he may be called to do by an independent action, as in ceasing from everything which is not God, and in desiring and willing to let God work in him.

"At the same time it is true, that God, in thus taking possession of the mind and becoming its inspiration, harmonizes with the mind, not less really than the mind harmonizes with himself; namely, by originating thought, feeling, and purpose, through the medium of their appropriate mental susceptibilities and laws. ...

"It is thus that God, acting upon the basis of man's free consent, becomes the life of the soul; and as such he establishes the principle of faith, inspires true knowledge, gives guidance to the will, and harmonizes the inward dispositions with the facts of outward providence. In a word, God becomes the Giver, and man the happy recipient. God guides, and man has no desire or love but to follow him.

"From that important moment, which may well be called the crisis of his destiny, man, without ceasing to be morally responsible, harmonizes with his Maker." A Treatise on Divine Union 1.6.9-11, pp. 28-29.

God's will governs the entire universe, directing and coordinating all things to good ends. By remaining attentive to and continuously choosing to do God's will, a person aligns himself or herself with it, achieving a state of harmony without as well as within:

"When man, as the head of creation, fell into sin, it may be said, with a great degree of truth, that the physical creation fell with him. There are connections and sympathies between man and the outward or physical world, which are not well understood, and are not likely to be well understood, in the present state of things. Certain it is, however, that in a world destined to be the home of holy and happy beings, the outward will correspond to the inward, the objective to the subjective, the home to the inhabitant." A Treatise on Divine Union 7.2.1, p. 261)

This is, of course, a standard Christian view, but it is more ancient than Christianity. The Stoics, for example, believed in a universal Logos that permeated the material world, coordinating all events according to a harmonious plan of Providence. By this view, in aligning oneself with God's will, one also becomes harmonized with Providence and the unfolding of God's benevolent plan in Nature. The Stoics, of course, did not invent this view themselves, but inherited from still more ancient sources. Hence, in an important sense what Upham is presenting is a modern continuation of the perennial philosophy.

The practical aim of life is to be found in an egoless, holy, living in the moment.:

"We see, further, that the doctrine of Living by the Moment, which is the doctrine generally adopted by persons who have had deep experience in holy living, has a real and permanent foundation and ought to be universally received and put in practice. No man lives well, who lives out of the will of God. No man lives in the will of God, who anticipates the divine moment or moment of actual duty, by making up a positive decision before it arrives, or by delaying a decision until after its departure. We must meet God there, and stand in his will there, or meet him no where, and stand out of his will every where. If, therefore, we would live in the will of God, we must conform to that beautiful and sacred order, in which his will is made known. In other words, if it is our sincere desire to live in the divine will, it seems to follow that we must live by the moment." (The Life of Faith 3.7.10, 1852, p. 414)

The central problem is that, in his fallen condition, man is, as Upham put it "at war with Providence", and this condition must be remedied:

"There are exceptions, it is true, but not enough to reverse, or to modify essentially the assertion, that man is at war with Providence. ... In this state of things it is obviously impossible that there should be peace or happiness. The divine harmony is broken. Man, in being by his selfishness antagonistical to God and God's arrangements, is necessarily antagonistical to his neighbor. Place is at war with place, and feeling with feeling. Judgment is arrayed against judgment, because false and conflicting judgments necessarily grow out of the soil of perverted affections. On every side are the outcries of passion, the competitions of interest, and the crush of broken hearts.

"Shall it always be so? The remedy, and the only remedy, is an adherence to the law of Providence. Renounce man's wisdom, and seek that of God. Subject the human to the divine. Harmonize the imperfect thoughts and purposes of the creature with the wisdom of the Eternal Will." A Treatise on Divine Union, 6.9.5 (pp. 236 - 237)

The cause of this alienation is excessive self-love, and this is what must be corrected. The remedy, in Christian terms, can be understood as a crucifixion of the personal ego or will.

The above passages, however, only identify the central issue. Upham's devotional works -- prose and poetry -- abound in numerous practical insights into holy and holistic living. Indeed, an entire psychological and theological system, well organized and internally consistent, aimed at helping the person to achieve the Unitive Life is found in his works. Significantly, Upham suggests that a Unitive Life is not simply a remote goal attainable only by great saints and mystics: rather, it is the state of transformation and salvation which forms the goal of every person. It is, for Upham, the very Kingdom of Heaven, and the essence of Gospel teachings.

However, while Upham usually expresses the redemptive process in Christian terms, his theories themselves are of more general and non-sectarian relevance. The decisive and defining issue for Upham is the personal choice to turn to God, and this theme is also emphasized in other religions. For example, in Judaism there is the Akedah, the pivotal, iconic image of Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac. An the very word "Islam" means surrender to God. Revealingly, Upham never sounds doctrinarian or dogmatic. He discussed the spiritual path in terms of Christian concepts. But ultimately the message is a universal one that transcends religious denomination or sect.

3.4 Positive Psychology

Beginning in the mid-19th century and throughout the 20th, the discipline of psychology placed undue emphasis on negative states and disordered functioning. What existed, in effect, was not so much psychology, but a 'negative psychology'. This orientation has often been criticized, and in recent years there has been efforts to launch a positive psychology -- one that emphasizes positive states, actions, and attainments -- in its place.

While this does appear to be progress of sorts, a criticism may nonetheless be raised that, at least so far, positive psychology has failed to adequately divest itself of the narrow, positivist-reductionist roots of negative psychology. Upham's theories supply a better, spiritually and religiously oriented approach to positive psychology, one more fully informed by and integrated with the philosophical and religious heritage of Western culture.

Upham understood human development and progress as something that begins with the individual acting in conscious union with God, and radiating outwards, so to speak, to involve actions of families, communities, and society at large, in a continuing process of redemption.

Redemption begins with a choice of the individual. This conscious and immediate choice to return to God results in a restoration not only of internal mental harmony, but a harmonization of the individual with society:

"His first work is to perfect his own nature; or rather, to let God do it, by leaving himself in the hands of the divine operator. But in being perfected in himself, he is perfected at the same time in the relations he sustains to others. In being a better man, he is not only a better father and husband, but a better citizen;— and while he labors and prays for the new and perfected life of those immediately around him. he does what he can for the restoration of all others in all places." A Treatise on Divine Union 7.7.8, p. 322)

To some, a state of union with God's will, which implies a complete surrender of personal ego and will, seems problematic. For example, it might seem to suggest that one becomes an automaton, or relinquishes all personal identity and individuality. This issue, and the related one of free will, were topics that Upham frequently addressed. It is no coincidence that one of the works for which he is best known is his biography of the Christian mystic, Madame Guyon (1648 – 1717). Madame Guyon's difficult life was further complicated by charges of the heresy of Quietism by the Roman Catholic ecclesia.

Upham defended the orthodoxy of Guyon, persuasively arguing that, as a spiritual innovator, it was inevitable that she would sometimes use new terms, or give new meanings to old ones, in ways that led to her being misundersood. The mystic, according to Upham, achieves the tranqililty not of passivity, but of harmonization of action with God's will. The mystic is placid -- but by no means inactive, and is not infrequently even more active than the non-mystic. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of surrender to God's will is, according to Upham, the abandonment of personal hesitancy to exert oneself to whatever degree one is called in serving God and humanity.

Upham was strongly affected by the heroic ethical examples of reformers like Thomas Clarkson (1760 - 1846), the British abolitionist. His conviction of the power of a single person, working in union with God's will, is reminiscent of some of Gandhi's writings:

"Think not that nothing can be done, because thou art little in the eyes of the world. The result does not depend upon what thou art in the world, but upon what thou art in God. It is God only, who is the source of all good. Various are the instruments he employs. He selects them, and he places them in the appropriate situations to be used by him. The power, whether it be more or less, is not in the instrument, in itself considered, but in God, who selects and locates it. In a multitude of instances has the declaration of the apostle been illustrated, that God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty (1 Cor 1:27). A man of faith and prayer, however humble his situation in life, may yet have influence enough to affect the destiny of nations." (A Treatise on Divine Union 7.7.9, pp. 322-23)

Thus, while different people may be called to act in different ways, according to their natural abilities and circumstances, each is nonetheless called to work for the betterment of all, and will find, should they accept his or her commission, sufficient grace for its accomplishment.

Such was the intellectual integrity of Upham that, unlike so many other Christians, he could not deny the inescapable conclusion that war is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.

"It is the part of Christianity, in the fulfilment of the great plan of redemption, to put an end to this state of things. Christ's work on earth is not accomplished, and of course the work of his followers is not accomplished, so long as wars exist. Let it, therefore, be the language of every Christian heart, — language which shall find its issues in appropriate action, — that wars shall exist no longer." (Treatise on Divine Union 7.7.6, p. 321)

Upham was deeply involved in the antebellum American peace movement, writing one of it's finest books, and serving as secretary of the American Peace Society for many years. He was also actively involved in the abolitionist movement, and worked to oppose capital punishment. Thus with Upham we have not only his writings, but his life to serve as example and validation of his theories.  

4 Significance

His biographers agree that Upham was largely immune from the kind of egoism that so often accompanies talent. Perhaps as a result, he found no personal barrier to cutting across doctrinal and sectarian boundaries. In short, Upham's work demonstrates the best form of eclecticism and synergism. He was able to effectively combine:

  • Self-observation with the scientific method
  • Empirical psychology with religion
  • Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian spiritual traditions
  • Moral philosophy with social activism
  • Disciplined scientific thinking with an organic, spiritual view of the material world.

His work is also noteworthy for being (1) distinctly American in character; (2) pastoral and agrarian in outlook; and (3) grounded in common sense, in that it asserts nothing that is not understandable and verifiable by the attentive layman.

The Dalai Lama, among others, has recently called attention to the need to develop some form of non-sectarian spiritual framework to enable better communication, cooperation, and harmonization among the world's religions. Similary, some better means of integrating modern scientific thinking with traditional spirituality seems needed. Upham's work may prove valuable for this. Christian and Muslim philosophers, to take a single example, may have diffulty agreeing on spiritual concepts expressed in terms of their respective religious traditions -- that is, religious doctrine. But to the extent that these same issues can be expressed in the form of a psychological theory, there is considerably more opportunity for agreement and productive exchange.

Readers may even consider whether there is something providential and especially timely in Upham's works. As expressed by Asa Mahan, Oberlin College president and friend of Upham's:

"There are few authors of modern times, whose writings have, in our judgment, more nearly realized the idea of universality, in an important sense of the term, than those of Prof. Upham. We refer to their manifest adaptation to the necessities of all truly spiritual minds, not in any one age, but in all future ages of the church. Wherever such a mind does or may exist, and whatever its spiritual attainments may be, it will find in these writings, much, very much with which it will be instructed, edified and delighted. In all future ages, his name will be 'as ointment poured forth.'"

Reference Notes

Lawrence, Brother. The Practice of the Presence of God. London: Allenson, 1906 (1st ed. 1692).

Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. 12th ed. London: 1930. (1st. ed. 1911).


Upham Bibliography

Many of the following works are available at both Google Books and the Internet Archive. Versions at the latter site are generally available in more formats.


Upham, Thomas C. Elements of Intellectual Philosophy. Portland, Maine: William Hyde, 1827.

Upham, Thomas C. A Philosophical and Practical Treatise on the Will. Portland, Maine: William Hyde, 1834. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Outlines of Imperfect and Disordered Mental Action. New York: Harper & Bros., 1840. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Abridgement of Mental Philosophy. New York: Harper & Bros., 1864. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Mental Philosophy. Vol. 1. The Intellect. New York: Harper & Bros., 1869.

Upham, Thomas C. Mental Philosophy. Vol. 2. The Sensibilities and Will. New York: Harper & Bros., 1869.


Upham, Thomas C. Principles of Interior or Hidden Life. Boston: D. S. King, 1843. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Religious Maxims. Boston: Waite, Peirce and Company, 1846.

Upham, Thomas C. Life and Religious Opinions and Experience of Madame de la Mothe Guyon. 2 vols.. New York: Harper & Bros., 1877 (1st ed. 1847) [Vol. 2] [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. A Treatise on Divine Union. Boston: Charles H. Peirce, 1851. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. The Life of Faith. New York: Harper & Bros., 1852. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Life of Madame Catharine Adorna (St. Catherine of Genoa). New York: Harper & Bros., 1858. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. A Method of Prayer, an Analysis of the Work so Entitled by Madame de La Mothe Guyon. London: Sampson Low, 1859.

Upham, Thomas C. Absolute Religion. New York: Putnam, 1873.


Upham, Thomas C. The Manual of Peace. New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co., 1836.

Upham, Thomas C. Essay on a Congress of Nations. In: William Ladd and George C. Beckwith (eds.) Prize Essays on a Congress of Nations. Boston: Whipple & Damrell, 1840. [archive]


Upham, Thomas C. American Sketches. New York: David Longworth, 1819.

Upham, Thomas C. The Religious Offering. New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co., 1835. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. American Cottage Life. Brunswick, Maine: Joseph Griffin, 1850. [archive]

Upham, Thomas C. Christ in the Soul. New York: Warren, Broughton & Wyman, 1872.


Upham, Thomas C. Letters, Aesthetic, Social, and Moral. Philadelphia: Henry Longstreth, 1857. [archive]  



Dieter, Melvin Easterday. The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1980 [2nd Ed. 1996].

Fay, J. W. American Psychology Before William James. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1939.

Packard, Alpheus Spring. Address on the Life and Character of Thomas C. Upham. Brunswick, Maine: Joseph Griffin, 1873.

Salter, Darius. Spirit and intellect: Thomas Upham's Holiness Theology. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1986.

Upham, Frank Kidder. Descendants of John Upham of Massachusetts. Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1892.

Ward, Patricia A. Experimental Theology in America: Madame Guyon, Fénelon, and Their Readers. Baylor University Press, 2009


Allibone, Samuel Austin. Upham, Thomas C. In: Samuel Austin Allibone (ed.), A Critical Dictionary of English Literature, and British and American Authors Living and Deceased. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1871.

Bundy, David. Thomas Cogswell Upham and the establishment of a tradition of ethical reflection Encounter 59.1-2, 1998.

Fuchs, A. H. Upham, Thomas Cogswell. In J. A. Garraty & M. C. Carnes (eds.). American National Biography (Vol. 22, pp. 112-114). New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Fuchs, Alfred H. The psychology of Thomas Upham. In: Gregory A. Kimble, Michael Wertheimer (eds.), Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology. Vol. 4. Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum, 2000 (pp. 1-14).

Hovet, T. R. Principles of the hidden life: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the myth of the inward quest in 19th century American culture. Journal of American Culture, 2, 265-270, 1979.

Mahan, Asa. The spiritual writings of Prof. Thomas C. Upham. The Oberlin Quarterly Review, Vol. 4, Jan. 1849, pp. 101 — 127.

Packard, Alpheus Spring. Address on the life and character of Thomas C. Upham, D.D. Brunswick: Joseph Griffin, 1873.

Rieber, R. W. Thomas C. Upham and the making of an indigenous American psychology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 291 (The Roots of American Psychology: Historical Influences and Implications for the Future). April 1977 (pp. 186–202)

Roche, Rebecca. Phebe and Thomas C. Upham: the rabble rousers. Pine Grove Cemetary of Brunswick, Maine. August 5, 2010.

Wozniak, Robert H. Mind and body: Rene Déscartes to William James. Bryn Mawr College, Serendip 1995. (Retrieved from: on March 26, 2011.) Originally published in 1992 at Bethesda, MD & Washington, DC by the National Library of Medicine and the American Psychological Association.


The Interior or Hidden Life (excerpts). From: Uncle Toms Cabin and American Culture website (Stephen Railton)

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First version: 26 July 2011

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