Although I can’t provide a definitive answer to the question, is the law of attraction real, I feel it is a philosophy that should be examined, scrutinized, and questioned thoroughly. It gained a great deal of recognition a few years ago largely because Oprah has not only embraced it but actually promoted the movie and the book called The Secret on her show and her website. Well, if Oprah says it’s good, it must be good, right? Well, maybe not. It depends on how you look at it.
First of all, I want to say that my intention here is certainly not to bash Oprah or the law of attraction. I enjoyed many of the Oprah shows and appreciated the positive contributions she made to society. However, I feel that the manner in which she presented the concept to the world is not only dangerous and unhealthy but insulting to many people.
Oprah opened one of her shows with this direct quote, “we are responsible for the quality of our lives.” I find statements such as these somewhat offensive because they are only partially true. Other similar statements that you see in the law of attraction culture are “we create our own reality,” “everything happens for a reason,” “everything in your life is the way it is because you want it that way or you created it or you attracted it there” and “you can have anything you want.”
I have a problem with this way of thinking and here is why. I live with several chronic health conditions that have an immense impact on the quality of my life and there is nothing I can do about that. Now according to The Secret, the law of attraction, and other spiritual belief systems, I have these conditions because I want them and attracted them to myself with my thoughts. That is offensive. I have these health conditions because of factors that are out of my control, not because I invited them into my life.
My health conditions cause extreme limits in my life which also has a huge impact on the amount of income I’ve been able to earn. Now in spite of all the spiritual and personal growth practices I’ve engaged in for more than 30 years and the fact that I’ve worked very hard to achieve my goals, I’ve been unable to heal my health conditions or achieve financial wealth.
I’m a highly educated and intelligent woman who has worked very hard to make positive changes in my life. I’ve read all the self-help and spiritual healing books, participated in all the groups and seminars, engaged in extensive psychotherapy, healed my childhood traumas, have achieved extensive psychological, spiritual, and personal growth, practice forgiveness, and gratitude, etc., etc., etc. You name it, I’ve done it. I have explored all the avenues out there and yet I have never been able to achieve these dramatic claims that these people say can be achieved with the law of attraction. And there are millions of other people like me who have had the same experience.
“Well you must not trust in the Universe enough,” or truly “believe” is the likely response I would receive from a guru, but that was not true when I first turned to these practices. When I first learned about the law of attraction I was very excited and convinced that I had truly found “the answer” and I was deeply disappointed to discover that I really had not. Not only that, I’ve taken a few good kicks in the teeth when I have trusted completely that the Universe would provide some very simple, basic needs.
Have I been able to make meaning and purpose in my life in spite of these conditions, find the lessons and messages they may carry for me? Absolutely. I have experienced small miracles in my life, coincidences, teachers who have appeared in my life at precisely the right time, and great blessings. I stay focused on the good in my life as much as possible, continue to work towards healing, and live life as fully as possible, however that does not change the fact that the quality of my life is affected deeply by the pain, loss, and limits that my health conditions impose upon me.
Yes, to a degree “we are responsible for the quality of our lives” in that we can choose how we “respond” to the hand we’ve been dealt. However, sometimes we’re dealt a pretty crummy hand and it has nothing to do with our thoughts. There are other forces that influence our life that are totally out of our control.
At the core of the law of attraction are victim shaming and delusion.
The Secret Law of Attraction
First of all, as many people who’ve studied spirituality or engaged in any kind of personal growth know, the material in The Secret, is not really a secret. It’s material that has been around for centuries. There isn’t really anything in here that we haven’t heard from a variety of other spiritual or personal growth sources before. The same principle was presented in other books like, Think and Grow Rich, The Power of Positive Thinking, and Creative Visualizations under a different name.
I pray, meditate, visualize, recite affirmations, focus on the positives, and express my gratitude to the Universe on a daily basis and have done so for a good 30 years and I didn’t learn any of it from The Secret.
What is different here is the manner in which it has been packaged and presented and the fact that Oprah has given it credibility and power.
Secondly, there’s something very important to keep in mind here. Oprah and The Secret gurus have many advantages available to them that we “common” folk do not have. When you already have wealth and power, it is quite easy to acquire more. Solving problems and making positive changes in your life can be achieved with ease when you have money and power. When you are one of the richest, most powerful women in the world you can make things happen quickly without much effort. It is very easy for the affluent, who already have everything they could ever need, to make impressive changes in their life. They are already several steps ahead of the game. Most of us are not operating on the same level. They are dealing with a different deck of cards.
Maybe that does not mean it’s not possible for us less fortunate ones to use the law of attraction to our benefit, however, I think our expectations need to be realistic. Our road to success will probably be much longer and harder and may not be as extravagant and dramatic.
Additionally, I don’t think Oprah, the gurus teaching The Secret or anyone who’s achieved great success or wealth in their life could tell you that they achieved their accomplishments with thought alone. Instant, overnight success or wealth is not a reality. Money is not going to fall into your lap from the sky because you asked for it. It takes a lot of action and hard work to achieve your goals. There’s a whole lot more to it than just “ask, believe, and receive.”
If you sit in your living room watch TV and eat candy bars and cookies all day, you are not going to lose weight no matter how many times you “ask and believe” unless you actually take action and work hard at it by changing your diet and exercising. Money is not going to magically appear in your living room simply because you asked and believed. It must be followed up with hard work.
What it really boils down to is this; in order to change your life and achieve the success and wealth you desire, it requires high self-esteem, believing in yourself, having confidence, taking action for change, setting goals, perseverance, determination, working hard and being grateful along the way. It also requires money and a little luck or a touch of fate.
However, even when you engage in all the right behaviors, you may still be faced with obstacles that are totally out of your control. No matter how hard you try, sometimes life pulls the rug out from under you and you never see it coming. As the saying goes, “shit happens”, “bad things happen to good people” or sometimes you’re in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” God, the Universe, Buddha, the white light, the law of attraction, or whatever you want to call it, cannot protect you from all the bad, painful, destructive, and harmful things that can potentially happen in this life. There are other factors that come into play in this world besides the law of attraction.
I’m not saying that the law of attraction does not exist, although I’m not convinced it does. I’m not saying that you can’t harness its power. I’m not saying it can’t be used to make changes in your life or improve your quality of life. I have experienced what may have been the law of nature working in my own life on occasion, however, at other times I see no results and therefore believe that there are other external sources in play that can throw a wrench in your path.
There is still room for randomness in my view. Tragedy can strike and it has nothing to do with your thoughts. I have experienced this side of the coin as well. Even if you believe in the law of attraction there is room for senseless tragedy, meaningless pain and suffering, randomness as well as serendipity, unexplainable blessings, coincidence, and intuition.
The way the law of attraction is currently being marketed makes it appealing to so many people because it instills a false sense of control, protection, and hope. It takes advantage of the fact that the world is full of people living in horrific and desperate situations and hungry to make sense and meaning out of a chaotic and painful life. It encourages an illusion of safety.
As I see it, the problem with The Secret and the way it’s being interpreted is that it’s going way beyond using these principles as a means for personal and spiritual growth and blowing its power out of proportion. It encourages wishful, magical thinking that is out of touch with reality and blames the victim.
It’s a misleading and deceptive attempt to make people feel certain when there is no certainty, to make people feel safe and comforted in an unsafe world, to make sense out of senselessness, to make people believe they have control in a world that is clearly out of control. The world does not always make sense. It is not a safe place. It is confusing and senseless sometimes. It is a world that is riddled with poverty, conflict, confusion, pain, suffering, cruelty, abuse, injustice, inequality, and violence as well as beauty and good. To encourage people to ignore this or deny it is delusional and irrational. It does not serve us well. We do not have all the answers. We do not know what “the” truth is.
Questions to Ponder
According to The Secret and the law of attraction, you can have anything you want, be anything you want and do anything you want. Not that it’s not good to believe this and shoot for the stars, however, it doesn’t allow for outside forces to interfere. If you don’t succeed in these things, then it is your fault because you had doubts about the law or you had an unconscious desire not to succeed. In other words, it’s all your fault. You are to blame for everything that happens to you in your life.
Additionally, it seems to me that they have confused “empowerment” with control. Although they preach that you have to let go of control and give it to the Universe, they are actually trying to make us believe that we can actually control absolutely everything in our life, including the Universe, with our thoughts.
For example, they say that meditation should be used to control your thoughts. There are many goals of meditation, but controlling thoughts is not one of them. The main goals of meditation are to quiet the mind, observe your thoughts, attain a higher level of consciousness, detach from desires and objects, become more aware, experience the moment completely, experience your oneness with the Universe. and connect with your wiser or higher self. When meditating, you clear your mind temporarily of thoughts, but you don’t attempt to control them or banish them forever. Meditation is supposed to help you be aware and conscious of reality, not deny it.
In The Secret way of thinking, any thought or emotion that is not pleasant or positive is considered bad and should not exist. You should banish them from your mind, because if you don’t, then bad things will happen to you. As I see it, The Secret is encouraging people to use the law of attraction to not only repress thoughts but repress feelings. Don’t be angry, don’t be sad; be positive all the time.
In this view, everything that happens to you happens because you created the circumstances in your life with your thoughts. If you don’t have enough money to pay your bills or you live in poverty, it’s your fault because you’re blocking the Universe from sending you enough money. If you’re sick or something bad happens to you, it’s because you invited it into your life with your thoughts. If you had just controlled your thoughts enough, these bad things wouldn’t have happened to you.
Now, I’m all for positive thinking and practice it extensively in my life, however, I think this is going a little overboard. Making people believe that bad things happen to them because they had an unconscious desire to make it happen or they invited it into their life with their thoughts is absurd and counterproductive.
You can not possibly control everything. Here are a couple of illustrations on my point:
- Herbicides and pesticides are a powerful neurotoxin that poison the human body and destroy health. If I am exposed to herbicides and pesticides, I have very serious and detrimental health issues to contend with. There is no amount of “positive thought” that can change this reality.
- We all know that there are many factors that come into play in order to rise from poverty. Can the law of attraction be used to assist you in this process? Perhaps, but it is not “the answer” in and of itself. Keep in mind, that to rise from poverty it usually requires education and not everyone has those resources available to them. Not everyone has an IQ that enables them to comprehend and put practices such as the law of attraction into use. Are we to believe that these people are actually to blame for having a lower IQ and why should they suffer so severely?
- A hurricane has formed in the ocean and is heading straight for your city. Once again, no amount of “positive thought” could prevent this hurricane from forming.
- Your crossing the road and the brakes go out on the car coming down the road towards you and hits you and renders you a quadriplegic or your driving down the road and a drunk person pulls out in front of you and kills you instantly. Are we really to believe that if we just had the right thoughts we could have prevented this or that you actually attracted this into your life with your thoughts?
- Now here’s one we can all relate too. A crazy bearded man in Afghanistan masterminds a plan to hijack our airplanes and fly them into buildings to kill as many Americans as possible. Who could have seen this coming? Are those that say the law of attraction can control absolutely everything and change reality actually saying that we all had the power to prevent this from happening and it is our own fault that it occurred, because we attracted it to ourselves with our thoughts? I don’t think so.
So, therefore, this shows us that the law of attraction does not always hold true. It can be short-circuited and overtaken by other factors.
Reflections on the Law of Attraction
The biggest problem with the law of attraction is the fact that it blames and shames the victim. There is no shame in being a victim. Being victimized is something out of your control.
If we say that it is true that everything that happens to you is a result of your thoughts, that you create your own reality, and everything in your life is there because you attracted it with your thoughts, then we would have to say the following is true:
- When a child gets abused, it is their fault because they attracted it into their life with their thoughts.
- When a woman is raped it is her fault, because she invited it into her life with her thoughts.
- When someone is robbed, mugged, or murdered, it is their fault because they invited it into their life with their thoughts.
- When someone gets bit by a poisonous snake, is the victim of an earthquake, wildfire or hurricane, is involved in a fatal car crash, etc. etc. it is there fault, because they somehow did not think the right thoughts or they attracted it unconsciously with their fears.
- When someone develops a chronic health condition or terminal illness it is their fault, because they attracted it to themselves with an unconscious thought, fear, or need.
Now I think many of us would agree that it is absurd to say that any of these circumstances would be true. Not only that, it’s downright insulting.
The way the law of attraction is currently being presented and interpreted makes it sound like it’s very simple to achieve things like becoming a millionaire, healing a terminal illness, owning a mansion, obtaining an island, or any other extravagant goal or desire you may have, and if you haven’t achieved them it is your fault because you simply haven’t thought the right thoughts or had enough faith in the Universe. According to these Secret gurus, everything in your life is exactly the way it is because you made it that way either consciously or unconsciously with your thoughts.
This sets up a lot of people for deep disappointment and failure. Not only that, it’s very damaging to self-esteem. When outside forces prevent someone from achieving these extravagant goals they’ve been told they can achieve, they blame themselves. It incites needless feelings of shame and guilt. This is not empowering. It only makes people feel bad about themselves by encouraging hopelessness and feelings of inadequacy.
It’s also dangerous because it makes it very easy for us to be judgmental of one another and have a blind eye to the struggles that others may be going through. If they brought their plight upon themselves with their own thought, then it makes it really easy to lose compassion, turn our backs, and stop reaching out to help others.
Law of Attraction Deeper Analysis
Is the law of attraction real and does it have any validity? Maybe. Maybe not. Even if it does, I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as others claim it to be. Can miracles be achieved? Maybe, but not always, and even when they are, perhaps it is another force at work. Randomness is still a reality and out of our control.
There is nothing inherently wrong with some of the principles being taught in the law of attraction. We all know that if you go through life focusing on the negatives you’re not likely to be very happy or successful. We all know that to be successful and happy in life we need to believe in ourselves, have high self-esteem and confidence, set goals, and take action. We’re all taught from an early age that we should be grateful for the good in our lives and say thank you.
So setting intentions, focusing on the positive, visualizing our desires and goals, changing the negative talk in our head with affirmations, expressing gratitude, and believing in ourselves could never be considered harmful or bad. As a matter of fact, it is empowering, enhances the quality of life, and has the ability to change our lives.
However, we must remain grounded in reality and not get caught up in magical thinking. Instead of viewing the law of attraction as the “ultimate” truth in the world and the “solution” to everything, it should be used as a “tool” for personal, business, spiritual and emotional growth, and transformation.
You could work on becoming better at harnessing the power of the law of attraction while still recognizing the reality that other random factors may affect our lives and interfere with our goals. As a matter of fact, I believe that being aware of the limits the law of attraction holds and other factors that may have a negative influence on it could actually help you be able to use it more effectively.
Set intentions, visualize, affirm, be grateful, and believe you have the power to achieve it, however, take additional steps to address anything that may actually sabotage or hinder your progress. Be loving, accepting, and patient with yourself if outside forces interfere with your goals. Allow for and accept the possibility that it may not be the “cure” for absolutely everything.
For example, I set an intention to drive to the grocery store and back home safely. However, I also keep an eye open for others and drive defensively. I pay close attention to others around me. I don’t simply rely on my intention alone to keep me safe. I set an intention that I will remain safe and protected from harmful people. However, I also take care to not put myself in any position that might be high risk. I don’t go into isolated areas alone or walk through dark alleys and parks.
We should remain open to all the good things the Universe can possibly bestow upon us, while at the same time remaining aware that there are other factors to take into consideration. We should never become boxed in by one particular belief system.
There will be many supporters of the law of attraction that will say to me after reading this page that I just haven’t learned how to use it properly and the truth is that I’m open to that possibility as well. Maybe I haven’t, I’m still on my spiritual journey of growth just like everyone else, but I still think my questions and reflections have validity and should be explored and discussed.
Proponents of The Secret have no satisfactory answers for the points I have raised on this page and until they do I can’t buy the whole package with blind faith. They respond with replies that are unacceptable like “You don’t trust the Universe enough, you’re not forgiving, you’re blocking the good stuff from coming in, you’re still holding on to something negative, it’s what the Universe wants for you, etc., etc., etc. Who says so? Where do they get this stuff? It’s just someone’s belief. It is not a truth that is set in stone.
I do not propose to have all the answers, and that is where I differ from those who believe. No one can know for certain what “the” truth is. It is unknowable. I think we should have an open mind to explore all possibilities.
Is the law of attraction real? We do not know the answer to this question. It is only a belief system. One of many, and just like all the others, there is no “real” proof that it exists. Even if there is a little bit of truth to the concept, it’s not like it’s a real “law of nature” like gravity.
It’s also important to remember that we don’t do television shows about the people who haven’t been successful with the law of attraction and there are many of them out there.
James Arthur Ray and the Secret
It’s also very important to be aware that James Arthur Ray, one of the biggest names behind The Secret and the Law of Attraction movement, was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to prison time when three people died at one of his seminars in a sweat lodge.
Here’s a brief overview of the event. In October 2009, James Ray held a seminar called the Spiritual Warrior Retreat in Sedona Arizona. Participants paid as much as $10,000 to engage in so-called “spiritual” activities like shaving their head bald, being deprived of water and food for 36 hours in the desert, spending two nights outside alone in the desert, and a sweat lodge ceremony.
In other Ray seminars, he is reported to engage in activities like walking on glass, putting their hands inside a cage full of snakes, walking on hot coals, and sleep deprivation.
Throughout this retreat that already cost the participants approximately $10,000, he tried to upsell a new book he had coming out, as well as other programs that cost as much as $27,000.
The sweat lodge ceremony was the final event and Ray boasted that his sweat lodge would be unlike any before — hotter and more intense. As televised on TV, Ray can be heard on audio making a variety of disturbing statements like, “I am God,” “you will feel like you’re going to die” and they “should not be afraid to die.”
Throughout the ceremony, participants were reporting that they couldn’t breathe, they were vomiting, they were passing out. Some of them were hysterical, screaming, crying, thought they were having a heart attack, disoriented, confused, unconscious, had burnt skin from falling into or brushing against the hot rocks, crawling, and collapsing.
And yet, Ray, forged on.
If one of them decided to leave the ceremony, Ray’s response was, “you are bigger than that, you are better than that.”
When one woman crawled to the doorway and was about to exit, Ray responded, “You are definitely stronger than this. You’re stronger than this. You can overcome this. It’s mind over matter.”
As people got sicker and the chaos escalated, Ray responded, “Everybody — I’m in charge of this. And everybody needs to be quiet.” “You’re stronger than this. You can do this. You think you’re going to die. You’re not going to die. Fight through the pain.”
When it finally came to end, some participants were no longer moving.
Two participants were dead. Eighteen others had to be hospitalized for dehydration, burns, breathing problems, elevated body temperature, and kidney failure. One other died a week later.
One of the participants described the scene as a triage center or a plane crash.
In the midst of the aftermath, the great law of attraction leader James Arthur Ray was nowhere to be found. He abandoned his followers and left them to deal with this tragic event alone. He didn’t even bother to visit the dead and injured in the hospital.
Prior to the deaths of these people, there were several other individuals who had been seriously injured and one suspicious death during other Ray seminars. So, there were warning signs long before this that everyone failed to notice.
We must ask ourselves, why is it that a group of intelligent people would ignore the warning signs their body was giving them, and their own common sense?
As I see it, the answer to this question is that James Ray, and others like him, are no different than Jim Jones or David Koresh, they are just peddling a different poison. They use their charisma to manipulate vulnerable aspects of human nature to market false hope for profit. This tragedy ranks right up there with Guyana and the Waco Massacres.
In my eyes, James Ray was so narcissistic, egotistical, arrogant, and probably psychopathic, that he was completely out of touch with reality. So narcissistic that when he spoke to one of the mothers of one of the people who died, he never even thought to say, “I’m sorry.” His focus was purely on himself. According to the mother of this deceased person, he said, “This is the most awful thing that has ever happened to me in my life.” No regard or acknowledgment for what the mother was going through or the loss of life.
He and others like him are dangerous.
This is about as far away from true spirituality and living an authentic life as you can get. This is not a path to spirituality. Real spirituality is found within, not walking on hot coals, shaving your head, or attending seminars that cost $10,000.
Hmmm, I wonder what James Arthur Ray has to say about his fate now. If the whole law of attraction were true as he states it is, then we must assume that Ray attracted this horrific event into his life and that it is his fault. According to Ray, “you attract what you consistently think, feel, and act upon.” Maybe there are accidents after all.