What is the Law of Attraction?

CD writes: “So many of my friends, who are very well educated, are suddenly getting involved in the Law of Attraction. Can you explain what this is and if Catholics can become involved in it?”

The Law of Attraction is a New Age construct that was hatched more than a century ago in the New Thought movement of the late 19th century. Christians are well-advised to steer clear of this belief for a variety of reasons.

For example, as the Law of Attraction website explains, “Simply put, the Law of Attraction is the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on. It is believed that regardless of age, nationality, or religious belief, we are all susceptible to the laws which govern the Universe, including the Law of Attraction. It is the Law of Attraction that uses the power of the mind to translate whatever is in our thoughts and materialize them into reality. In basic terms, all thoughts turn into things eventually.”

In other words, the mind is a kind of god that can create reality. By thinking a certain way, you can attract either negative or positive experiences into your life. This is based on the belief that thoughts are made from “pure energy” and that like energy attracts like energy from the Universe.

This might sound good, but according to science, it’s utterly implausible. As this article in Live Science explains, it’s main premise – the idea that energies attract similar energies – is wrong. “…[I]n physics, it is opposites — not similars — that attract.”

This means that even if thoughts were made of energy (which they are not), positive thoughts/energy would actually attract the opposite – negative thoughts/energy.

Phineas Quimby (1802-1866)

There’s another aspect of this theory that becomes quite disturbing when it is followed to its end. If our thoughts attract positive or negative events in our life, then a person is to blame for whatever accidents, disease, abuse, etc. comes into their life.

Michael Shermer, writing for Scientific American, explains just how heartless is the Law of Attraction.

“Ceteris paribus, it is undoubtedly better to think positive thoughts than negative ones. But in the real world, all other things are never equal, no matter how sanguine your outlook. Just ask the survivors of Auschwitz. If the law of attraction is true, then the Jews–along with the butchered Turkish-Armenians, the raped Nanking Chinese, the massacred Native Americans and the enslaved African-Americans–had it coming.”

This despicable belief obviously doesn’t register very on the national “woke” meter.

For all of their insistence that science has proven the Law of Attraction, Shermer goes on to explain how they are making it appear this way by misrepresenting the electrical activity of brainwaves.

“The brain does produce electrical activity from the ion currents flowing among neurons during synaptic transmission, and in accordance with Maxwell’s equations any electric current produces a magnetic field,” Shermer writes. “But as neuroscientist Russell A. Poldrack of the University of California, Los Angeles, explained to me, these fields are minuscule and can be measured only by using an extremely sensitive superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) in a room heavily shielded against outside magnetic sources.” By the time this tiny shred of electrical current is emitted, it is “promptly swamped by other magnetic sources” such as the earth’s magnetic field.

Instead of being based in science, the Law of Attraction is actually based in the 19th Century’s New Thought movement, a religio-metaphysical healing cult which is considered to be the grandfather of today’s New Age movement. It is traced to the theories of a man named Phineas Quimby (1802-1866) who discovered that he could heal by suggestion.

“He held that all illness is basically a matter of the mind and that it results from the patient’s mistaken beliefs. Hence, cure lies in discovering the truth. Although not religious in the orthodox sense, he believed he had rediscovered the healing methods of Jesus,” the Brittanica states.

Quimby gained notoriety when he became associated with Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, who was very much influenced by Quimby’s ideas. She believed that man is not a material being, but solely spiritual, and that sin, sickness and death do not exist – we just think they do.

As Eddy writes: “The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise” (Science and Health, 472:27-29). Hence, the reason why Christian Scientists do not use medicine to treat their ills but believe they can “think” them away.

Having said all this, the Law of Attraction does not have a very stellar history, which is probably why proponents like to drop terms such as “quantum” and “physics” rather than what is a more apt description of its origins – 19th century pseudoscience.

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