Bronze-level articleLaw of attraction

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The "Law" of Attraction (not to be confused with, you know… actual scientific laws, and sometimes abbreviated LoA) is an idea from the New Thought Movement that thinking about something will make the "Universe" (who's pretty much your cosmic prison bitch) suddenly poof it for you. Its popularity increased with the 2006 release of the book and movie The Secret.

Proponents try and wrap the idea up in pseudoscientific language, usually something to do with quantum physics. Thoughts form "energy fields" that "vibrate" with a "frequency" that attracts "like-energy" from the "cosmos" and all this somehow happens because of quantum probability waves or wave-particle duality. Anyways, your vibrations are a precious bodily fluid treasure that you should guard.[1]

While several variations of the Law of Attraction exist, the core of it asserts that behaving and thinking as if your goal is fulfilled will somehow bring that goal closer to being actually fulfilled. To become rich, truly believe you are rich. To get a new car, live your life with the mindset that you already have the car. To win your next sporting fixture, envision your victory in detailed technicolor. Making collages and other crafty projects as substitutes for the actual things (that you're supposed to believe you have anyway) is a popular suggestion. Unfortunately, the core of this philosophy is trying to rewrite one's brain to believe something obviously untrue so that thing can then somehow become true. It is even self-defending; failures of this method are waved off as "just not visualizing it" or "not truly believing it" and ignored.

That's why all those people are starving in Africanone of them are thinking about food hard enough. Thus, wanting it bad enough is all you really need.


[edit] History

In 1906, William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932) titled his New Thought Movement book Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World.[2] Bruce MacLelland's book Prosperity Through Thought Force was published, wherein he summarized the principle, stating: "You are what you think, not what you think you are."[3] The phrase "Law of Attraction" appeared in the writings of the theosophical authors William Quan Judge in 1915,[4] and Annie Besant in 1919.[5]

[edit] A false meritocracy

The Law of Attraction postulates a false meritocracy, in that people are supposed to receive rewards for supernatural reasons. A genuine meritocracy requires that rewards are apportioned based on demonstrable competency and abilities. In this system, one gets what one deserves, as decided by woo. The availability of rewards in a meritocratic system would almost always imply that less-competent people are not going to be rewarded. This withholding of rewards, amounting to de facto punishment, is where the Law of Attraction becomes truly sinister. John Stackhouse, Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, had the following to say about The Secret:

"What makes The Secret so troubling, from my point of view, is that it is a stew of the good and the bad, such that the good is genuinely nourishing, while the bad is genuinely toxic."[6]

By toxic, he means the ease with which adherents of the Law of Attraction can dismiss the misfortune of others as being a case of "bad things happening to bad people". The Law of Attraction does not necessarily mandate that the suffering of those less worthy should be ignored, leaving them to their fate, but it certainly makes it easier to blame someone for events beyond their control. Starving Africans are presumably hungry because they just don't want food, or they lack the self-actualization to demand it from the cosmos. Conversely, the Law of Attraction would appear to personally reward people for their good fortune in being born in to a wealthy society. Christianity is sometimes used in a similar way when suffering is attributed to God's will, or people being punished for their misdeeds (à la Fred Phelps and hyper-Calvinism), but mainstream Christianity practice tends to promote charity towards those less fortunate, albeit with strings attached.

Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Give him a motivational seminar on self-actualizing his food-gathering energy thoughts in order to get the cosmic karma genie to provide him nutrition and you'll feed him for the rest of his (very short) life.

[edit] Self-contradiction

In addition to its other obvious flaws, the Law of Attraction can contradict itself in various ways. Most apparently, it is unclear what the Universe is supposed to do when two or more people want contradictory things. This wouldn't be as problematic if LoA advocates didn't hype it as the only guiding principle of reality, i.e., there are no other physical laws.

Furthermore, the variant promoted by The Secret argues that the Universe ignores the negative aspect of a negative thought; for example, if you constantly wish to not get into traffic jams, you will keep getting into traffic jams because the "not" part is irrelevant from the Universe's point of view. This notion may derive from psychological studies that suggest that people in a state of less concentration often "tune out" terms like not in statements, forgetting that they were there. Of course, this is a fact about human psychology and should not impede the Universe (unless the Universe is sleepy or distracted). However, nearly every statement can be expressed in either positive or negative terms, and many thoughts are nonverbal. If Bob spends his time consciously or subconsciously desiring a vegetarian meal, will he get a vegetarian meal… or will he get a cheesesteak because "vegetarian" is just another way of saying "not including any meat"? If he wants a hamburger, will he get a living cow because "dead" means "not alive"?

Note that this aspect of the logic of human language allows for yet another "out" in the case of failures of the LoA, alongside "more people thought about the opposite happening", "you weren't really thinking about it correctly", and "you really wanted the thing that happened; your conscious desire was just an expression of that".

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. The Magic of Guarding Your Vibration
  2. Google Books
  3. Google books, page 9
  4. Judge, William Quan (1915). The Ocean of Theosophy. United Lodge of Theosophists. p. 103.
  5. Popular Lectures on Theosophy. Theosophical Publishing House. 1919. p. 79.
  6. Prof. John Stackhouse’s Weblog: The Secret is "toxic"
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