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A spry Murphy later in life.

Joseph Murphy: Timeline of Metaphysical Pioneer

Timelines may not be the hottest ticket on Medium. (And who says I don’t provide practical philosophy?) But I do find a comprehensive timeline an excellent tool for students, seekers, scholars, and journalists who may feel befuddled by the sheer volume misinformation about modern mystical figures online.

New Thought writer and minister Joseph Murphy (1898–1981), the highly influential author of the 1963 classic, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, is a worst-case-in-point.

Various sources have the Irish-born seeker studying with Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), English judge and mystic Thomas Troward (1847–1916) — either of which would have made him a prodigy indeed — or offer dubious details about his childhood home and educational background. Murphy didn’t help matters by his tight-lippness about his past and occasional bouts of self-mythologizing.

This timeline represents the most complete information that I could locate through immigration records, Murphy’s few interviews, and cross-referenced sources. It teases out the journey and prolific output of one of the last century’s best-known and most significant metaphysical voices. This timeline appears, with much else, in my anthology The Wisdom of Joseph Murphy.


1898 — Joseph Denis Murphy is born on May 20, the fourth of five children (three girls and two boys) to a devout Catholic family on the Southern Coast of Ireland in Ballydehob, County Cork. Murphy’s father was headmaster of a local boys high school.

Circa 1914–1915 — After being educated locally, Murphy studies chemistry in Dublin. Bowing to his parents’ wishes he enrolls briefly in a Jesuit seminary. Dissatisfied with his studies, and unbelieving of the doctrine of no salvation outside the church, Murphy leaves seminary.

Circa 1916–1918 — Murphy works as a pharmacist for England’s Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I.

1918–1921 — Murphy works as a in pharmacist in Dublin. He earns a monthly salary of about $10.

1922 — Dissatisfied with traditional religion and finding limited opportunities to practice as a chemist, Murphy just shy of age 24 arrives in New York City on April 17, 1922. He is accompanied by his wife, Madolyn, who is eight years his senior (wedding date unknown). He arrives with $23. Applies for citizenship in August.

1923–1938 — Murphy works as a pharmacist in New York City including at a pharmacy counter at the Algonquin Hotel. He deepens his study into metaphysics and years later recounts having studied with the figure of Abdullah, a black man of Jewish descent whom Murphy’s contemporary and fellow New Yorker, Neville Goddard (1905–1972), wrote that he studied with. Murphy reports that Abdullah tells Murphy that he actually had three brothers, not two. Upon checking with his mother, Murphy discovers that he had a third brother who died at birth and was never spoken of.

Circa 1931 — Murphy begins attending the Church of the Healing Christ in New York City, presided over by Emmet Fox.

Circa 1938 — Murphy is ordained as a Divine Science minster. He continues to work as a druggist and chemist.

1941 — Murphy begins broadcasting metaphysical sermons over the radio.

1942 — Murphy enlists as a pharmacist in the New York State National Guard, a post he holds until 1948.

1943 — Murphy studies Tarot in New York City and comes to believe in symbolic correspondences between the Tarot cards and Scripture.

1945 — Murphy writes his first book, This Is It: The Art Of Metaphysical Demonstration.

1946 — Murphy is ordained as a Religious Science Minister in Los Angeles. He soon takes over the pulpit of the Institute for Religious Science in Rochester, New York. He publishes the short works Wheels of Truth, The Perfect Answer, and Fear Not.

1948 — Murphy publishes St. John Speaks, Love is Freedom, and The Twelve Powers Mystically Explained.

1949 — Murphy is re-ordained into Divine Science and becomes minister of the Los Angeles Divine Science Church, a post he will hold for the next 28 years. Services become so popular that they are held at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.

1952 — Publishes Riches Are Your Right.

1953 — Publishes The Miracles of Your Mind, The Fragrance of God, and How to Use the Powers of Prayer.

1954 — Publishes The Magic of Faith and The Meaning of Reincarnation, one of his most controversial books.

1955 — Publishes Believe in Yourself and How to Attract Money, one of his most enduringly popular works.

1956 — Murphy writes Traveling With God in which he recounts his international speaking tours, comparing New Thought with various global traditions. He also publishes Peace Within Yourself (St. John Speaks revised) and Prayer Is the Answer.

1957 — Publishes How to Use Your Healing Power.

1958 — Publishes the short works Quiet Moments with God, Pray Your Way Through It, The Healing Power of Love, Stay Young Forever, Mental Poisons and Their Antidotes, and How to Pray With a Deck of Cards.

1959 — Publishes Living Without Strain.

1960 — Publishes Techniques in Prayer Therapy.

1961 — Publishes You Can Change Your Whole Life and Nuclear Religion.

1962 — Publishes Why Did This Happen to Me?

1963 — Publishes The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, which becomes a worldwide bestseller and a landmark of New Thought philosophy. The book’s publication makes Murphy into one of the most widely known metaphysical writers in the world.

1964 — Publishes The Miracle of Mind Dynamics.

1965 — Publishes The Amazing Laws of Cosmic Mind Power.

1966 — Publishes Your Infinite Power to Be Rich.

1968 — Publishes The Cosmic Power Within You.

1969 — Publishes Infinite Power for Richer Living.

1970Publishes Secrets of the I Ching.

1971Publishes Psychic Perception: The Magic of Extrasensory Perception.

1972Publishes Miracle Power for Infinite Riches

1973Publishes Telepsychics: The Magic Power of Perfect Living (1973)

1974 — Publishes The Cosmic Energizer: Miracle Power of the Universe (1974)

1976 — Murphy’s first wife Madolyn dies. He remarries his secretary, Jean L. Murphy (nee Wright), also a Divine Science minister. He writes Great Bible Truths for Human Problems.

1977Publishes Within You Is the Power

1979Publishes Songs of God

1980Publishes How to Use the Laws of Mind

1981 — Murphy dies on December 16 in Laguna Hills, CA, where he and his wife Jean are living at the Leisure World retirement community, now known as Laguna Woods Village.

1982 — These Truths Can Change Your Life is published posthumously.

1987 — Canadian writer Bernard Cantin publishes the French language work Joseph Murphy se raconte à Bernard Cantin [Joseph Murphy Speaks to Bernard Cantin] with Quebec’s Éditions Un Monde Différent. The book is based on an extended series of interviews Cantin conducted with Murphy before his death and provides a rare window into Murphy’s career. It does not appear in English. The Collected Essays of Joseph Murphy is published posthumously.

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"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China

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