A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies | View All

law of attraction

"The Secret" is like Amway for the soul.

"Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." — Mark xi. 24.

The law of attraction is a New (Dark) Age belief that one's mental disposition attracts similar external circumstances and events. In other words, your mental intentions and attitudes draw people and things of like intention and attitude to yourself. On one level this is trivially true. We generally hang out with people who think like us and share our values and we avoid people who disagree with us on important matters and don't share our values. But a moment's reflection should reveal that this "law" is false; it's not even truthy.

Sellers don't attract sellers; they attract buyers, unless they're running an MLM scheme. Lazy dreamers don't attract lazy dreamers. They attract con artists with big smiles and lots of promises. Grieving vulnerable people don't attract vulnerable people; they attract vultures and vampires who take advantage of their grief. If you say that grief and greed are both negative so this example supports the law of attraction, then this law is impossible to test. It's too slippery to have any meaningful content if obvious contradictions to it are said to support it. When kindness begets not more kindness but resentment, a New (Dark) Age defender of this "law" can always claim that the kindness wasn't genuine.

One of the main purveyors of this belief is Gary "Dancing Wu Li Masters" Zukav. According to Zukav:

Each personality draws to itself personalities with consciousness of like frequency or like weakness. The frequency of anger attracts the frequency of anger, the frequency of greed attracts greed, and so on. This is the law of attraction. Negativity attracts negativity, just as love attracts love. Therefore, the world of an angry person is filled with angry people, the world of a greedy person is filled with greedy people, and a loving person lives in a world of loving people.*

The so-called law of attraction is the kind of law that many people will find attractive. It provides them with the illusion of having control over their lives. All I need to do is change my attitude and intentions and I'll attract money like a magnet (or lose weight or whatever else it is I want to achieve). If it doesn't work, it's my fault because I didn't genuinely change my attitude and intentions. Sound familiar? What is it that the faith healers say about those who don't get healed? You didn't have enough faith!

If you want to succeed at something, draw up a plan of action. List what you want to achieve. List what you must do to achieve your goals in the order you must do them. Specify how you are going to measure success at each step along the way. Anything on the list that requires you to passively wait for somebody else to act must be eliminated from your list before you continue. If you can't achieve your goals without the help of others, pick the best people possible to help you and listen to them when they offer advice. Go down the list and check off each item as it is completed. If an item can't be completed, don't blame others. Come up with an alternative plan. Then move on to the next item. When you've accomplished all your goals, make up another list of goals and start over. Reaching one's goal is usually not as satisfying as striving to achieve it. Anyway, some goals aren't worth achieving. You'll do well to re-examine your goals regularly and weed out the worthless ones.

And remember: Anyone who tells you they have the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth, and everything else you have ever wanted, is lying to you. So, do not be fooled by any of the following Internet ads: Get Rich #1, Get Rich #2Get Rich #3, Get Rich #4, and Get Rich #5. What do they have in common? None of them tell you what you have to do to get rich quick. They do tell you that they are not MLM schemes. #3 (Eric with Kimberly) and #4 (Jan and Shane) have in common that they have testimonials from the same people. Another thing they have in common is that they, and others like them, all pay Google to list them when you search for "law of attraction." Ask yourself: Who is attracted to people who run such ads or who promote such come-ons as "The Secret"? They attract people who aren't like them but want to be like what they think these folks represent. And that is a pity.

The law of attraction originated in the 19th century movement known as the New Thought movement. An early proponent of the idea was William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932), who attributed his recovery from various physical, psychological, and financial disasters to the power of belief. He wrote a number of popular books about it, including Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World (1906). Belief in the power of belief has been an attractive message for millions of people for hundreds of years, even though there is little evidence to support the notion that believing something can make it so. Most of the supportive evidence is anecdotal. The evidence from science supports a limited influence from the placebo effect. Proper scientific tests of the power of belief to cure serious illnesses, however, have been universally negative. Those who claim that some tests have shown a positive healing effect from prayer, visualization, or positive thinking are motivated more by desire to believe than by the actual evidence. The same is true for scientific tests of the ability of people to affect something physical using only thought.*

See also confirmation bias, manifesting, and magical thinking.

further reading

websites and blogs

Skeptico on "The Secret"

Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant (on "The Secret")

Self-help gone nutty - A craze called 'The Secret' blends Tony Robbins with 'The Da Vinci Code,' telling people to have it all without trying - by Karin Klein, Los Angeles Times

The Secret of Delusion - The Second Sight blog

The Secret of Success by Jeffrey Ressner, Time

'The Secret' to Success? by Frank Mastropolo, ABC News

Mike's Skeptical Rant: "Here's the Secret: Blame the Victim"

Andy Wibbels: "The Secret Skeptic" and his Secret Movie 30-day Challenge

The Secret Behind The Secret What is Attracting Millions to the Law of Attraction? by Ingrid Hansen Smythe

Anita Quigley: "Focus on the Things You Want"

Watch "The Secret" preview on YouTube

News stories

Think Negative! Oprah, it's time to come clean about The Secret by John Gravois

Secrets of the rich and credulous - The Independent

Last updated 12-Sep-2014

© Copyright 1994-2016 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.