Law of attraction (New Thought)
The law of attraction is the name given to the maxim "like attracts like" which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from "pure energy", and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. One example used by Lisa Nichols in the film 'The Secret' is as follows: "Every time you look inside your mail expecting to see a bill, guess what? It'll be there. Each day you go out dreading the bill, you're never expecting anything great, you're thinking about debt, you're expecting debt. So debt must show up.....it showed up, because the law of attraction is always being obedient to your thoughts."
Although there are some cases where positive or negative attitudes can produce corresponding results (principally the placebo and nocebo effects), there is no scientific basis to the law of attraction, according to Robert Todd Carroll.
According to several other scientists, including Harvard scientist and psychiatrist, Srinivasan S. Pillay M.D, author of "The Science Behind the Law of Attraction: A Step-by-Step Guide to Putting the Brain Science Behind the Law of Attraction to Work For You," and "Your Brain and Business: the Neuroscience of Great Leaders," certainly believes and teaches that recent brain science and neuroimaging supports the law of attraction theories. The law of attraction has a substantial scientific basis, according to Dr. Pillay and many others.
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The New Thought movement grew out of the teachings of Phineas Quimby in the early 19th century. Although he never used the words 'law of attraction' his basic premise was similar, although restricted only to the field of health:
the trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in, and we put a value on it according to its worth. Therefore if your mind has been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge. By my theory or truth I come in contact with your enemy, and restore you to your health and happiness. This I do partly mentally and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impressions and establish the Truth, and the Truth is the cure.
In 1877 the term 'law of attraction' appeared in print for the first time in a book written by Helena Blavatsky. By the end of the 19th century the term was being used by New Thought authors such as Prentice Mulford and Ralph Trine, but for them the law of attraction not only affected health but every other aspect of our lives.
The 20th century saw a surge in interest in the subject with many books being written about it, amongst which are two of the best-selling books of all time; Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill and You Can Heal Your Life (1984) by Louise Hay.
In 2006 the concept of the law of attraction gained a lot of renewed exposure with the release of the film The Secret which was then developed into a book of the same title in 2007. The movie and book gained widespread attention in the media, from such diverse outlets as Saturday Night Live to The Oprah Winfrey Show in the United States; Winfrey devoted two episodes of her show to discussing the film and the law of attraction, and talk show host Larry King also discussed it on his show with Bob Solis.
New Thought authors believe that the law of attraction is always in operation and that it brings to each person the conditions and experiences that they predominantly think about, or which they desire or expect.
Charles Haanel wrote in The Master Key (1912):
The law of attraction will certainly and unerringly bring to you the conditions, environment and experiences in life, corresponding with your habitual, characteristic, predominant mental attitude.
Ralph Trine wrote in In Tune With The Infinite (1897):
The law of attraction works universally on every plane of action, and we attract whatever we desire or expect. If we desire one thing and expect another, we become like houses divided against themselves, which are quickly brought to desolation. Determine resolutely to expect only what you desire, then you will attract only what you wish for.
Criticism of the idea
Skeptical Inquirer magazine criticized the lack of falsifiability and testability of these claims. Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias. Physicist Ali Alousi, for instance, criticized it as unmeasurable and questioned the likelihood that thoughts can affect anything outside the head.
The Law of Attraction has been popularized in recent years by books and films such as The Secret. This film and the subsequent book use interviews with New Thought authors and speakers to explain the principles of the proposed metaphysical law that one can attract anything that one thinks about consistently. Writing for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Mary Carmichael and Ben Radford wrote that "neither the film nor the book has any basis in scientific reality", and that its premise contains "an ugly flipside: if you have an accident or disease, it's your fault".
Others have questioned the references to modern scientific theory, and have maintained, for example, that the law of attraction misrepresents the electrical activity of brainwaves. Victor Stenger and Leon Lederman are critical of attempts to use quantum mysticism to bridge any unexplained or seemingly implausible effects, believing these to be traits of modern pseudoscience.
Authors and their works discussing the law of attraction
- Prentice Mulford, a Californian author and humorist, used the term law of Attraction in his essays Some Laws of Health and Beauty and Good And Ill Effects of Thought, written in 1891.
- Ralph Waldo Trine published his book In Tune with the Infinite in 1897. In the second paragraph of chapter 9 he says "The Law of Attraction works unceasingly throughout the universe, and the one great and never changing fact in connection with it is, as we have found, that like attracts like."
- Thomas Troward, who was a strong influence in the New Thought Movement, claimed in a 1904 lecture that thought precedes physical form and "the action of Mind plants that nucleus which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward visible form."
- James Allen, an English New Thought writer, wrote a series of books and articles between 1901 and 1912, after which his wife Lily continued his work. Allen is best known for writing As a Man Thinketh in 1902.
- William Walker Atkinson used the phrase in his New Thought Movement book Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World (1906), stating that "like attracts like".
- Bruce MacLelland's prosperity theology book Prosperity Through Thought Force (1907) summarized the principle as "You are what you think, not what you think you are." It was published by Elizabeth Towne, the editor of The Nautilus Magazine, a Journal of New Thought.
- Wallace D. Wattles wrote The Science of Getting Rich (1910) which espouses similar principles — that simply believing in the object of your desire and focusing on it will lead to that object or goal being realized on the material plane (Wattles claims in the Preface and later chapters of this book that his premise stems from the monistic Hindu view that God provides everything and can deliver what we focus on). The book also claims that negative thinking will manifest negative results.
- William Quan Judge a theosophical author used the phrase in his book The Ocean of Theosophy (1915),
- Annie Besant, another theosophical author, discussed the 'law of attraction' in 1919. Besant compared her version of it to gravitation, and said that the law represented a form of karma.
- Napoleon Hill published two books on the theme. The first was The Law of Success in 16 Lessons (1928), which directly and repeatedly referenced the law of attraction and proposed that it operates by use of radio waves transmitted by the brain. Then in 1937, he published Think and Grow Rich, which went on to become one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 60 million copies. In this book, Hill insisted on the importance of controlling one's own thoughts in order to achieve success, as well as the energy that thoughts have and their ability to attract other thoughts. In the beginning of the book, Hill mentions a "secret" to success and promises to indirectly describe it at least once in every chapter of the book. It is never named directly, for he says that discovering it on one's own is far more beneficial. Many people have argued over what the secret actually is, some claiming that it is the law of attraction. Hill states the "secret" to which he refers is mentioned no fewer than a hundred times, yet reference to "attract" is used less than 30 times in the text. Most students of the book claim the secret is hidden in its title: THINK (i.e., thinking the right thoughts).
- Israel Regardie published many books with the Law of Attraction theme as one of his prevailing Universal Laws. His book, The Art of True Healing: A Treatise on the Mechanism of Prayer and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature (1937), taught a focused meditation technique to help the mind to learn to heal itself on both a physical and spiritual level. Regardie claimed further that the Law of Attraction was not only a valid method for attracting good physical health but for improvement in any other aspect of one's life.
- U.S. Andersen's book Three Magic Words (1954) became a forerunner of the current claims regarding the subconscious mind and the law of attraction.
- W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill wrote Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (1960).
- Richard Weiss states in his book, The American Myth of Success (1988), that the principle of "non-resistance" is a popular concept of the New Thought movement and is taught in conjunction with the law of attraction.
- Esther and Jerry Hicks' book Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Health, Wealth & Happiness (2008) appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. Hicks have been publishing books about the law of attraction since 1995.
- Internal locus of control
- Napoleon Hill
- The Secret (2006 film)
- Conversations with God
- Cosmic ordering
- Efficacy of prayer
- Law of contagion
- Magical thinking
- Medical students' disease
- Positive mental attitude
- Priming (psychology)
- Prosperity Theology
- Pygmalion effect
- Reverse marketing
- Self-fulfilling prophecy
- Sympathetic magic
- The Master Key System
- Mind over matter
- Think and Grow Rich
- Whittaker, S. Secret attraction, The Montreal Gazette, May 12, 2007.
- Redden, Guy, "Magic Happens: A New Age Metaphysical Mystery Tour", Journal of Australian Studies: 101
- "The Law of Attraction: Real-Life Stories - Oprah.com". oprah.com. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Lisa Nichols". Leverage The Secret, 5 July 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- "The Secret - Law Of Attraction (FULL MOVIE)". Youtube. Begins: 32minutes and 20 seconds. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- Mary Carmichael and Ben Radford. "CSI | Secrets and Lies". Csicop.org. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- Carroll, Robert Todd (19 December 2013). "law of attraction". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- Pillay M.D., Srinivasan (10 January 2011). "law of attraction". The Science Behind the Law of Attraction: A Step-by-Step Guide to Putting the Brain Science Behind the Law of Attraction to Work For You. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "The Quimby Manuscripts". New Thought library. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- "Isis Unveiled". Theosophical University Press, page 340. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- "In Tune With The Infinite". New Thought Library. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- "THE GOD IN YOU". Cornerstone Publishing, 2001. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- "A Company Aims to Put Good Karma and Energy Close at Hand". The New York Times, 28 March 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- "Go Beyond 'The Secret' - Oprah.com". oprah.com. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "The Master Key System. Chapter 8, part 18." (PDF). New Thought Library. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "In Tune With The Infinite, by Ralph Trine". New Thought Library. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
- Kaptchuk, T., & Eisenberg, D.; Eisenberg (1998). "The Persuasive Appeal of Alternative Medicine". Annals of Internal Medicine 129 (12): 1061–5. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-129-12-199812150-00011. PMID 9867762.
- Byrne, Rhonda (2006). The Secret. Beyond Words Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58270-170-7.
- Shermer, Michael (June 2007). "The (Other) Secret". Scientific American 296 (6): 39–39. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0607-39.
- Stenger, Victor J.. "Cosmic Mind" (PDF). University of Colorado. pp. 8–19.
- Leon Lederman; Dick Teresi (1993). The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question. Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 189–198.
- Non-science posing as science; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Trine, Ralph. In Tune With The Infinite. London: G Bell and Sons, LTD. Published 1911. p. 174.
- Judge Thomas Troward, The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, 1904.
- William Walker Atkinson. Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction. Advanced Thought Publishing. 1906. Out of Copyright version
- MacLelland, Bruce, Prosperity Through Thought Force, Elizabeth Towne, 1907
- "The Science of Getting Rich - Wikisource". En.wikisource.org. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
- Judge, William Quan (1915). The Ocean of Theosophy. United Lodge of Theosophists. p. 103. ISBN 0-7661-0544-X.
- "POPULAR LECTURES ON THEOSOPHY". anandgholap. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- Annie Besant (1895). "Karma" (First ed.). Theosophical Publishing House. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
- The American Myth of Success. Illini Books. p. 169.
- "New York Times Bestseller information August 31, 2008". The New York Times. 2008-08-31. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
- The dictionary definition of law of attraction (new thought) at Wiktionary
- Works related to The Science of Getting Rich at Wikisource