Does the law of attraction work? What is 'The Secret'?
The law of attraction is based on the "New Thought" movement which basically teaches that human essence is spirit, God is spirit and dwells in everything, and the thoughts of our spirit can induce God to make our wishes a reality. New Thought teaches that consciously or unconsciously, for good or bad, our thoughts and beliefs dictate reality. It says that our physical condition, including health, success, and wealth, is a direct result of what we expect. If we are sick, it is because our thoughts are unhealthy. If we are wealthy, it is because we believe we should be. New Thought has been adopted by both secular and religious movements.
The law of attraction is a basic tenet in New Thought. It says God is in everything (a form of pantheism). According to New Thought this means that when our spirit or thoughts concentrate on something, like health or a new car, the part of God in that thing is naturally drawn toward us. The law of attraction says that thoughts, wishes, and expectations will attract their own fulfillment. The ill are ill because their minds are deceived. Right thinking alters the electrical impulses in the brain to become well again. The poor are poor because their pessimistic thoughts attract poverty. According to New Thought, the more we understand God and how He works, the more powerful the attraction. It claims that God indwells everything, and if we concentrate on what we want, he will have no choice but to bring that part of himself to us. Early proponents of New Thought believed it worked through radio waves. Modern practitioners claim a pseudo-scientific mix of neurology and metaphysics.
"The Secret" is a little more ambiguous. Although Napoleon Hill asserted that his book Think and Grow Rich mentions the secret to success no fewer than one hundred times, he does not name it directly, insisting that it is far more valuable for people to figure it out for themselves.
The entire premise is foolish, unscientific, and successful only as a placebo. But when the law of attraction is mixed with evangelical Christianity, the law of attraction becomes incredibly dangerous. Prosperity gospel preachers go beyond simple thought and claim that illness, poverty, and any other negative life experience is due to our lack of faith in God. If we do not trust God to give us money and health, He will not do so, they say. The philosophy influences many unscriptural movements such as "name it-claim it," the prosperity gospel, health and wealth, and Word of Faith. It is also the basis behind the "centering prayer"—the practice of communing with God while focusing on a "sacred word" that represents what you want.
Does it work? Only in that we tend to put effort into that which we are thinking about, and if we expect something to happen, we're more likely to see any movement in that direction as a success and a result of our own efforts. We cannot control the actions of God, not by thought or by vocalizing our desires. It is possible He may give us our desires, but it is for His own purposes, not ours.
New Thought and the law of attraction are an offshoot of Gnosticism. Gnosticism was an influential philosophy in the time of the New Testament. It teaches that only that part of us and the world that is spirit is good. The physical is evil. The law of attraction takes Gnosticism a step further by insisting that our good, divine spirit can metaphysically change the physical. And, like Gnosticism, teaches that increased mysterious knowledge (the "Secret") saves us and makes us more powerful.
The truth is, God is not an energy force that indwells all things and responds to the whim of our desires. He is the Creator of the universe, the sovereign God. He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), but our good more often means holiness than comfort. He gives us the desires of our hearts, if our hearts are aligned with His (John 14:13-14). And He is not primarily concerned with our worldly success (Matthew 6:19-21); in fact, He promises hardship (2 Timothy 3:12). Certainly no one in history has had more faith in God than Jesus, and yet Jesus capped off three years of poverty with a crucifixion. New Thought, The Secret, and the law of attraction are just more ways people insist they can be their own gods.
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