Ok, that was all very childish. I was thinking I really should look at the good side of the Law of Attraction. Surely it must have something going for it. I set out to sort the wheat from the chaff. I then realised that I hadn’t actually seen the movie or read the book, so at least I should look at a trailer on youtube. Maybe you haven’t seen it. Here it is in case (follow the link below to watch it and read my analysis). Or save yourself 20 minutes. It’s up to you. By the time I was finished, I was writing this blog entry, and there wasn’t much wheat…
Where to start. The HYPE. The repeated message “You can have exactly what you want!”
The stupid Conspiracy Theory – the secret was kept secret by the rich minority, so you’re wonderfully lucky to live now when we’re disseminating it widely (Don’t forget to buy my DVD). This unfairly suggests that the rich were using knowledge of the magical law and deliberately keeping it from the lower classes. All the great artists and politicians and scientists mentioned as luminaries are implicated in an evil plot to keep the masses ignorant, when in fact they were acting in accordance with their social norms and, if anything, working to improve the lot of humanity. We are urged to feel grateful for things we haven’t got yet from a universe that really doesn’t give a fig, instead of being grateful for the things we have got – the whole of human culture – from our greatest ancestral benefactors, many of whom would be turning in their graves to learn how backward, ungrateful and full of mumbo-jumbo we’ve become!
As for quoting Winston Churchill to suggest that he advocated it – ‘You create your own universe as you go along’ – in fact he believed the opposite. Now, of course, the credulous can turn anything round – he would pretend that he didn’t believe it, since he was part of the conspiracy. Strange though, to quote him out of context to suggest that he preached solipsism, when what he was really saying was “…These amusing mental acrobatics are all right to play with. They are perfectly harmless and perfectly useless. I warn my younger readers only to treat them as a game. The metaphysicians will have the last word and defy you to disprove their absurd propositions.”. I think he was being generous – they are not perfectly harmless – but he was insightful enough to recognise that the solipsist argument is impossible to gainsay. That, of course, does not mean it is true.
Orthodox moral tenets, like the ‘golden rule’ (which was already misrepresented by pretending that it is a rule) are misrepresented by shoving them all together under one single universal law.
The pretense, by using the word ‘law’ that this is on a par with the laws of physics. Scientists just laugh or cry.
Magical thinking instead of critical thinking, eg. thoughts as frequencies being sent out (this was said several times and reinforced by the video showing waves of blur emanating from people!). It encourages belief in psychic phenomena of all sorts, again utterly unsupported by science. They then add to this with ridiculous misinterpretations or almost subliminal mention of Quantum Mechanics – you have to make a ‘quantum change in your thinking’…or stop thinking properly, more like.
The ridiculous upside-down magentism metaphor pisses me off, too. ‘Like attracts like’, just as in magnetism, as though you were actually a magnet attracting things to you…except that in magnetism like attracts unlike.
This points to something else. LoA is a rather unbalanced view compared with some ancient ‘wisdom’, eg. the central, balancing, Tantric principle of yin-yang, where, rather like magnetism, like attracts its opposite. Suffering, pain, fear and other negative emotions are not valued, but flipped out of deliberately – life has to be perfect happiness all the freaking time…had by…
Shiny, smiley, happy people lecturing us on how their success is their own creation and comes with no effort while they sleep or sip martinis by the pool (usually from their internet marketing). They fail to see that it is supported by the modern infrastructure of a rich nation, which their forefathers toiled and sweated and fought to create with practical, material effort. It’s supposed to be a law that works every time with every person, but I wonder how starving refugees get on manifesting their chosen lifestyle.
It teaches people to avoid negative thoughts (since the Law doesn’t discriminate between good and bad, just attracts whatever you’re thinking) like “this mountain of debt I’ve got”, which encourages people to avoid their responsibilites and live in a makebelieve world. Debt doesn’t magically disappear! In the movie, the scene is of a woman looking glumly at her computer screen – she’s obviously in debt and attracting more of it by thinking that. The next scene, in which a voice-over is telling us that the law is very ‘obedient’ and will give you exactly wyw, is of another young woman peering in a shop window at a neclace, segueing to her having it placed round her neck by – presumably – the guy she persuaded to buy it. Alternatively, she might have bought it herself, after ignoring how awfully in debt she was.
So, the message is clear, ignore your mounting debt, smile, think happy thoughts and go shopping. Is the true secret behind the secret simply that it was devised by whoever would benefit most from encouraging higher spending and borrowing? Is the Secret responsible for worsening the credit crunch? Was the conspiracy closer to home?
Everything bad happening to you is your fault. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to work and thinking you’ll be late, you’re stuck because you’re thinking you’re stuck and you’ll be late because you’re thinking you’ll be late. Odd. As more and more people learn to use the LoA, traffic presumably will either flow better or magically disappear from the streets. Oh yes, of course, everyone’ll be at home on the net trying to sell each other stuff.
Next up we have the example of the gay man who went to Bill Harris complaining of being bullied at work, receiving homophobic abuse in the street and heckled as a commedian – confidence, not magic, perfectly ordinary cognitive therapy and relaxation would have done as well. Bill tells us that through using the LoA, most of his abusive co-workers changed departments or left their jobs (which is a nice coincidence, interpreted by a magical thinker), the others treated him well and he wasn’t heckled or abused in public (because he was now more confident; he’s actually shown smiling and nodding at people, when before he shuffled along looking guilty and fearful. The fact that we tend to be treated as victims if we look like victims is well known to psychology without the stupid magical ju-ju shit!). Thinking positively (if realistic, not fanciful) is good, encouraging and enabling – it doesn’t require invoking a universal spiritual law.
Decide to feel good emotions and reject bad emotions. I dislike this part of the film because of my general objection – something ordinary and sensible is repackaged and interpreted as part of the new-thought religion. Then it ties into the shiny happy people thing – incredibly fortunate people find it very easy to make a career out of telling depressed people they’re doing it to themselves. I want good things to happen to genuinely selfless people, and real misfortune to wipe the self-generated smile off the smug faces of people ‘practising the secret’! That encouragement to focus on being happy for the sake of it, generating positive emotions, is fine up to a point, but it could also be seen as a way to be irresponsible and selfish. If our own good feelings come first, we aren’t noticing the suffering in the world – indeed, we may have to deliberately ignore it – some LoA gurus decide not to watch TV; the news disturbs their finely crafted, artificial happiness too much.
Banal example of how stupid this is: the film goes on about how if you’re thinking negative, fearful thoughts, you’ll attract bad things, while a guy, looking slightly nervous, locks his bicycle to a lamp-post. He comes back a while later to find that the lock has been cut and his bike stolen. So let me see if I get this – first I can imagine the most expensive new bike I want, then just dump it in the street and have confidence that it’s going to be there when I come back.
That’s before we’ve considered all the people with curable diseases who don’t get medical help because they think it’s only curable from within. Still, it’s just a bit of magical thinking, What’s the Harm?
(WHEAT: The cat with its head stuck in a bag is funny.)
What I hate most about all of this is that there is wheat amongst the chaff – there are good, useful, encouraging principles of living that people aren’t aware of – but in the LoA these good things are twisted into a magical religion based on a silly, ignorant superstition, at a time when we should really be waking up from such things and facing the real future, with its real problems and opportunities, not putting on a happy face every morning and thinking about what we want. It’s hard to describe precisely the stomach-churning disgust I feel when I see these preening fools, pyramid selling a pile of mystical crap.
Occasionally someone in the movement puts forward the view that having stuff doesn’t make us happy for very long, reminds us of the sick fantasy of owning and ‘succeeding’ rather than loving and giving and finding significance, and maybe pieces of sensible advice get through. Personally, I’m playing with the theory that this is a phase that certain particularly depressed, suppressed, anal types have to go through first; hopefully some of them will come out the other side in a few decades. Reality has a habit of gradually reminding you that it isn’t as flexible as you’d like it to be.
There is an ancient spiritual message that things are rather upside-down: those who concentrate on getting what they want, lose everything, and those who give everything, or care not, gain everything. Some try to squeeze this message into the strange vessel of the LoA, but they’d be well advised to use another. The Law of Attraction is repulsive: you can spot them a mile off, ‘practising gratitude’ for the things they’re gonna get today. I’m a fairly forgiving person, but they strike me sometimes as actually quite evil. I’m sure it’s just that they’re deluded.
It’s telling that most of the search results you get when you google ‘the secret’ or ‘law of attraction’ are people trying to sell you their version, their DVD or book or lecture, competing in the market place, demonstrating that their psyche hasn’t magically shifted from a deficit mentality to an abundance one, they have just learned (or rather, been indoctrinated with) some marketing strategies, and now, in order to make their millions without effort, you have to buy the same.
The LoA is the biggest pyramid selling scheme ever. It sells a new age religion of selfishness and wealth, distorts history, congratulates the fortunate and insults the unfortunate. It deepens the sickness of our celebrity- fame- and external-image-fixated culture. It is spritual consumerism, whittled down to its most catchy, essential propaganda, thoroughly marinated in woo, then writ large in Hollywood-capitals hype.