A Critique of Abraham Hicks & the Law of Attraction

New Age guru Abraham Hicks has made many shocking and disturbing statements about rape, slavery, 9/11 victims and Holocaust deaths. She claims “less than 1% of rapes” are “true violations” and the rest are attractions. Hicks believes slavery was “the beginning of a journey that was better” and part of an “overall improvement in humanity.” She says “AIDS is the physical manifestation of not liking yourself.” Hicks and others like Rhonda Byrne, creator of “The Secret,” have taken a partial truth and concretized it into a religious absolutist system known as the Law of Attraction and made millions in the process. The teaching is harmful and a form of spiritual bypassing.


[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented by United Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Contact: [email protected]

11/11/2019

Recipe For Success

Exactly fifty years prior to the publication of the best selling book and DVD The Secret, Earl Nightingale released a vinyl record in 1956 that set the motivational world on fire. It was called The Strangest Secret and it shared the same fundamental premise as Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 The Secret; we become what we think about and our thoughts create our reality. His self-written and recorded LP sold over 1 million copies making it the first-ever spoken word album to achieve gold status. After his phenomenal success, Nightingale went on to form Nightingale-Conant which became one of the largest self-help audiobook publishers ever. With only a one-word difference between the names did Byrne steal Nightingale’s title and message? We may never know but they are undoubtedly two of the biggest and most successful proponents of the Law of Attraction in the modern era.

New-age guru Esther Hicks, who claims to channel 100 entities known as Abraham is the other largest force behind the spread of the Law of Attraction. One of these entities is supposedly Jesus, another Buddha. Now 71 years old, she is also one of the most well-known figures in modern spirituality, traveling the world speaking to massive sold-out crowds. The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said Abraham are “great Masters of the Universe,” while Louise Hay, founder of the popular Hay House publisher said they are “some of the best teachers on the planet today.”

“That which Jesus was, Esther is” – Abraham

Just like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, the uniqueness of Esther Hicks and her teachings as Abraham don’t seem to be all that original, however. She too got her schtick from elsewhere.

Before Abraham was manufactured, Esther and her husband Jerry had several visits with a woman named Sheila Gillette who claimed to channel a group of twelve Archangels called THEO. Sheila acknowledges the origins herself, “Within a year of Esther’s experience with THEO, she began channeling ABRAHAM.” The channeled voice of Abraham was remarkably similar in accent, style, and content as THEO. “I was captivated by what I heard from Theo,” Esther said. The precedent had been set. The husband and wife team of Sheila and Marcus Gillette built a following and business channeling a cosmic entity using an accent. Esther and Jerry took note.

Sheila Gillette channeling THEO and her husband Marcus.

Esther also took a page from the books of Jane Roberts who claimed to channel an entity known as Seth. Author David Stone claims that Abraham is merely a dumbed-down version of Seth.

“Not long after their marriage, Jerry introduced Esther to Jane Roberts’ Seth books. Roberts claimed to be channelling an entity with traits in common with the soon to arrive Abraham. The primary distinction separating the two is that Seth is much pithier, more complex and original than Abraham, a supposed entity that often seems to voice nothing more profound than a simplified rehash of Roberts’ Seth.

Abraham, in fact, sometimes reads like dumbed down Seth, a digest constructed for easier mass consumption. Esther recalls Jerry reading out loud from the Seth books in bed, tickling her toes under the covers.”

Jerry was also heavily influenced by new thought teachings such as Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich prior to the emergence of Abraham. In Hill’s book, The Law of Success he uses the exact phrase “the Law of Attraction” 11 times. Yet both Jerry and Esther claim the first time they ever heard the term was from Abraham. Stone argues that Jerry was the motivating force behind creating Abraham and that he edited and helped write the books.

From Amway to NYT Bestselling Author

Why did Rhonda Byrne and the Hicks’s become world-famous multi-millionaires while Sheila and THEO never did? They had something Sheila and her husband didn’t: extensive experience marketing and selling product. Byrne was an infomercial and TV producer prior to creating The Secret. She knew how to dazzle an audience with presentation and packaging. Jerry was a prominent Amway salesman who was married to a highly successful Amway saleswoman named Trish. And Esther was Trish’s bookkeeper, thus she was also heavily immersed in the culture. Amway was a prominent multi-level marketing business known for its pyramid marketing scheme.

Former Abraham Hicks devotee turned critic Kyra explains that Amway salespeople made most of their money selling “motivational materials” such as Think and Grow Rich and audiobooks about them to new recruits, not from the product itself. “This is how [Jerry] became a Crown level with his former wife Trish. Not from selling soaps, appliances, etc. But from selling his motivational courses, tickets to “business presentations”, and tapes like so many Amway distributors did before him.” Amway salespeople were required to purchase one motivational self-help book a month.

“They worked for Amway, selling motivational materials to their recruits/distributors (aka “business associates”), and then Abraham mystically happened to them and they just started selling their own Abraham materials to their associates. And as their business associates recruited new people, they sold more, and then, like any Amway “business”, it just got bigger and bigger till they decided to take their act on the road, so that now they are on the New York Times Best Seller list.”

The recipe for success was laid out for Esther and Jerry. They got the style, accent, and initial content from THEO, more specific teachings came from Seth and they used their Amway sales and marketing background to launch Abraham into the world. They knew the scheme would work because as Kyra states, “Jerry and Esther were already giving workshops, holding seminars, and touring the country with Jerry’s Amway business presentations.”

Cult Dynamics

David Stone suggests that Esther and Jerry were originally experimenting with cult-like elements to test the waters. Esther, via Abraham, used to make prophecies about natural disasters and gave specific dates (none of which came true) and these were edited out of later editions of her first book. In her early days she would scream in an authoritarian manner and she no longer does. She also no longer circles and bobs her head in dramatic fashion at the beginning of her sessions as she originally did.

A New-Age Cash Cow

The Law of Attraction and related works are a big-money business. Nightingale sold 1 million records while The Secret has sold over 30 million copies. Esther and Jerry Hicks became multi-millionaires. Think and Grow Rich has sold over 20 million copies. Oprah and Larry King profited by featuring The Secret cast several times. Many modern spiritual teachers have also profited from the concept. Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson even cashed in on the phenomenon with her 2012 book The Law of Divine Compensation. It merely regurgitated a lot of the same non-sensical beliefs as The Secret. She states,

“The Fairy Godmother didn’t order a limo; she turned a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horsemen. Whatever Cinderella needed, the universe took care of it. The Fairy Godmother didn’t have to order a dress or call out for a car because the universe miraculously transformed existing material. That’s how the universe operates. Cinderella, despite her circumstances as a servant, had the mind-set of the miraculous. And so miracles came to her.”

Williamson literally invoked fairy tales to describe her understanding of how the world works. She was in good company with The Secret.

The money was so big in the Law of Attraction scene it led to a split between Byrne and Hicks. The original version of The Secret actually featured Esther. But once Byrne saw the massive profits to be made she forced all presenters to turn over their intellectual property rights, meaning they’d receive no compensation. Hicks’ original contract gave her 10% which was $500,000 at the time. Byrne gave her an ultimatum: she could either turn over her rights or be edited out. Hicks decided to be removed from the film and said the way Bryne handled the situation was “not nice.” As a result of Bryne’s power-play money grab, she became the sole profiter of those 30 million products sold.

Shocking & Disturbing Statements by Abraham Hicks

There are many ridiculous, outrageous, offensive and shocking statements made by Esther Hicks, Rhonda Byrne, and Law of Attraction teachers. From delusional and fantasy-based ideas that you can manifest cars, bikes or diamonds in an instant to horrible statements blaming victims for abuse and rape, there are a wide range of terrible comments made by these new-age prophets. Hicks says humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth together and denies evolution and that humans evolved from an earlier species. They have gotten away with them because, in part, they are “spiritual teachers” who are often shielded from critique. Had a politician or public official made these same comments they’d immediately be forced to resign. And these statements reported here are certainly only a small percentage of the horrible things Hicks has said throughout her career.

Rape

On several occasions, Esther Hicks via Abraham has stated that if a woman or even a little girl were raped or sexually assaulted it came about because they attracted it to themselves. These quotes are taken from various talks she has given.

“It is less than 1% of the actual rape cases that are true violations, the rest of them are attractions and then a changing of intention later…”

“As this man is raping it is our promise to you this is a disconnected being, it is also our promise to you is the one he rapes is a disconnected being…” 

“We believe that this subject [of rape] is really talking about the mixed intentions of the individual, in other words, she was wanting the attention, she was wanting the attraction, she was really wanting all of it and attracted more than she bargained for and then as it is occurring or even after feeling differently about it…”

A woman asked Hicks during a talk how she could have attracted being sexually molested as a little girl. Hicks responded by saying that we all create our reality and that early “contrast” i.e. suffering is a way to accelerate spiritual growth. 

“No one ever wants to hear that they are the creator of their reality when things are not the way they want them to be. But we cannot say you are the creator of your own reality sometimes and sometimes you are not. Everything that comes, comes in response to your vibration. What people mostly don’t realize about the creation of children is that children are offering vibration even when they are not offering words. You pick up your vibration from those who surround you, from what you hear. You pick up your vibration and you offer your vibration…Why would some child with all of this innocence negatively attract? We say because you came forth thinking you had free will to think. And you would not give up your free will to attract wanted or unwanted by having someone else making all of the decisions of what should come to you…Also, you hit the ground running and there isn’t anything that causes streams to move faster than early contrast, there isn’t anything that puts more into your vibrational escrow than early experience. “

When responding to a question on Oprah’s radio show about how the Law of Attraction would lead to a young girl attracting her own rape and murder, Hicks responded by saying parents don’t teach their children how to think properly and they are influenced by the negative thinking of the adults around them. She told Oprah, “If they are listening to the guidance within they could not comfortably ever settle on the thoughts that would lead them to attract something unwanted.” What was also surprising was Oprah’s complete lack of a response. She said “OK” and moved on. 

Hicks has also claimed that protesting rape or rapists is what actually attracts rape. She says standing on pedestals protesting merely spreads rape “outwards.” Hicks also says that unless we can understand a rapists motives we have no right to critique him. 

“Attention to people being raped and a feeling of irritation and irateness or anger at such injustice is the very vibration that causes you to attract it into your own experience. Give your experience to things you don’t want and it becomes your experience, it is law. Most whoever who have had that sort of experience will not allow themselves to look at the positive aspects and would rather gather together with others in groups and talk about the injustice of it. They’d rather stand on platforms and vibrate in a place of disconnection from who they are. And you can tell they are disconnected by the crummy way they feel. As they shout their outrage or cry their tears of pain. So, as they’re involved in this trauma and disconnectedness they spread disconnectdness and future rape outward. Whereas if you can acknowledge it as your attraction and understand how you attracted it, then instead of standing on platforms and spreading rape you can stand on platforms and spread deliberate control… Where is your time better placed? Abbhoring rapists? Joining panels that scout them out and persecute them? Or is your time better spent in finding the harmony of your own vibration? Do you have the right to eradicate a rascal? Can you understand his motives? And if you can’t understand his motives, do you have any plausible right or ability to tell him what to do or what not to do?”

In her book The Law of Attraction, she echoes a similar sentiment. “And so, if there is one who gives much thought to, or one who speaks much about rape, then it is very likely that they will be the “victim,” by their words, of such an experience. Because, by Law, you attract unto you the essence.”

Race and Slavery

In response to a question about slavery and how an entire population could have attracted such tragedy to themselves, Hicks replies by saying it was the start of something better. 

“Do you think it would be accurate to say that many of the descendants of some of those who were brought here in slavery are now living in a much better environment than if they’d stayed there? It’s really hard to believe that whole cultures of people could have things in their vortex that would call them to it that would be part of an overall improvement of humanity...Some of that trauma and tragedy that they are wanting to condemn, if you could make peace with it and acknowledge it was the beginning of a journey that was better then the improvement could be yours today, but the determination to condemn it as wrongdoing on whoever’s part you want to point the condemnation toward holds you in the place in not receive the benefit they all cared so much about in that they were willing to live it in order to create it.”

During a talk, an African-American woman asked Hicks about how she should teach slavery to her kid. “He could go to school and daydream,” she replied. “None of that [slavery] has anything to do with him,” and “he won’t have to deal with it” she continued. Hicks proceeded to equate the teaching of African-American history with a family legacy of passing down “bad” feelings. She then blamed Martin Luther King Jr. for his own death. Hicks stated, “He lost sight of his dream momentarily…he began to push against. And when one pushes against in a very fast-moving stream abrupt things happened…It’s trying to get others to agree with us about our dreams that causes backlash.”

At an event, Hicks was asked about the cause of prejudice and discrimination and she said the one being discriminated against attracts it to themselves. “More often, the one who feels discriminated against is the most powerful creator in that experience. The being who feels that others do not like him — for whatever reason — whether it is religion, race, gender, or social status . . . no matter what the reason is that he feels that he is being discriminated against — it is his attention to the subject of the prejudice that attracts his trouble.

Holocaust

In response to a question from a participant about the Holocaust Hicks replies that the Jews who were killed were partially responsible. 

All of them were co-creators in the process. In other words everyone that was involved in it did not die, many of them who were well connected with their inner beings were inspired to zig and zag. Many of them left the country.” 

In another talk, a woman asks Hicks a similar question about the Holocaust. “How did six million people of Jewish descent attract such despair and suffering that they endured?” Hicks replies by saying that many did not die because of vibrational differences amongst them.

“For everyone that died in that way there were many, many, many more who didn’t. In other words, it didn’t happen to everyone, so why didn’t happen to everyone? Because there were vibrational differences among them you see. How can that many people have that negative experience? Because you hang around with each other and you talk similarly, and you get a similar vibration going and you dovetail into the currents of things and then inevitable things happen.” 

Hicks also said that people were creating “future holocausts” by talking about victimhood, injustice, and unfairness. She even went on to say that the countries being bombed by George Bush were attracting it to themselves by their negative emotions. 

9/11 Terrorist Attacks

In response to a question about how so many people could have simultaneously attracted their deaths on 9/11 Hicks says that someone couldn’t wake up “happily vibrating” and walk into a building like the World Trade Center. 

“How would it be that so many would find themselves a vibrational match to something? That is what vibrational matches are about. All of the elements that have culminated in that eggarated experience have been percolating. It has been in the making. In other words you don’t just wake up one morning and be vibrating happily ever after and just walk into a situation like that. You don’t just wake up one morning vibrating happily ever after and find yourself working in a building where previous bomb threats have even happened.” 

She also stated that one could see clearly how the Law of Attraction applies when looking at all the factors. 

“When you think about the WTC and you acknowledge that it has been a target before, that there have been experiences there before, that trauma has surrounded it before, that some who are there are offering some similar vibration around that. When you think about the turmoil that has been happening around the airlines, when you think about the air rage that has been pulsing, as you have access to specific information about many factors that all culminated in that, as you address it from your knowledge of law of attraction suddenly things come into clear view.” 

Hicks also said that if the questioner understood the personal history of everyone killed in the attack it would be much easier to understand how the Law of Attraction was at play. And she said because “only” several thousand of the workers died and not the full 20,000 who were in the buildings that it was clear the Law of Attraction was involved.  

Assault and Murder

In this passage from Hicks’ book The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham Jerry asks Hicks how innocent victims of robbery attract it to themselves. 

“Jerry: I can understand robbers being attracted to those they’re robbing, but it’s difficult to see innocent victims (as they’re called) attracting the robbery, or the person being discriminated against attracting the prejudice. 

Abraham: But they are, just the same. The assaulted and the assaulter are co-creators of the event.

In a video, Hicks also blames people who are murdered for attracting their own death. 

“Every death is suicide because every death is self-created. No exceptions. Even if someone comes up and puts a gun to you and kills you. You have been a vibrational match to that.

And another example. “Unless you invite them through your thought, aggressors will not be part of your experience. That is Law, in your physical setting or in our Non-Physical setting.”

Gay Marriage

A lesbian woman who asks Hicks about gay marriage is told: “what is that stupid piece of paper anyway?” She responds that it is important because of wills, taxes and social security. Hicks replies with “that is all shortage consciousness.” The woman says to her “but, how do you create change in the world?” Hicks goes on to derail this woman’s interest in legalizing gay marriage. She tells her she has to stop pushing against. “Every time you say 35 states and 42 this and 152 that, you use that evidence to split your vibrational escrow.”

AIDS

Hicks claims that people with AIDS attracted it to themselves and that it is the “physical manifestation of not liking oneself.”

Jerry’s Death & Multiple Wives

Because Jerry and Esther have made a career of lecturing others about how negative things in their lives come from their thoughts, their own personal lives are fair game for analysis.

Jerry had at least five wives and even told an interviewer he “lost count” of how many he had. Is this evidence of an expert in practicing the Law of Attraction?

Esther via Abraham also has lectured her followers about not needing health insurance or traditional medicines. She’s stated, “The ultimate health insurance is ‘just get in the vortex’ but so many people don’t even know about the vortex.” On March 2nd, 1997 Hicks said, “In reality, we have never encouraged Jerry or Esther to take any sort of medication or medical treatment because we know it is easier to teach them with what they know how to find their vibrational harmony with energy.” When Jerry got leukemia he went on a high dose regimen of chemo which he referred to as the “big guns,” seemingly contradicting the teachings of Abraham. One must wonder why he didn’t just use the “vortex” as Esther preached to her susceptible followers. Hicks has said, “You could be diagnosed with every deadly disease known to man — but you could be lying in your bed in a state of utter allowance, and allow the Energy of Source to flow through to the cells of your body — and you would have an instant healing!” Jerry died from cancer in November 2011.

The Secret Presenters Disturbing Statements

“The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts.” -Rhonda Byrne

In an interview with Nightline News anchor Cynthia McFadden, The Secret commentator Bob Proctor states that the country of Darfur has starving children because they have manifested it on a level of thought. Thus, negative or “bad” thinking has caused children to starve. He goes on to claim that he could teach them how to think properly because “the child in Darfur probably doesn’t even know anything about thinking.”

In The Secret, Proctor states rich people are wealthy because they know The Secret.

“Why do you think that 1 percent of the population earns around 96% of all of the money that’s being earned? Do you think that’s an accident? It’s designed that way. They understand something. They understand the Secret, and now you are being introduced to The Secret.”

Rhonda Byrne confirms this line of thought when speaking about those who have money, “The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts.”

In an interview, Byrne states that those stated killed on 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina attracted it to themselves.

“In responding to the question about events where massive numbers of people are killed, there are a few important points to consider. First, there is no one to blame…In a large-scale tragedy, like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc., we see that the law of attraction responds to people being at the wrong place at the wrong time because their dominant thoughts were on the same frequency of such events. Now, this doesn’t mean that they thought of the same exact event, but if their dominant thoughts and feelings were in alignment with the energy of fear, separation, powerlessness and having no control over outside circumstances, then that is what they attracted.”

Another Secret presenter, James Arthur Ray, claims that “many” Jews didn’t think the Holocaust was that bad, “I know many people, for instance, of the Jewish faith and heritage, who don’t necessarily believe that the Holocaust was bad.” He continues, “Now, that might, that might be shocking to you, but I’ve had — I have people on record who have said, ‘Hey, there was a lot of good things that came out of that, a lot of lessons, a lot of opportunities for the world.’” He said similar things about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “I’m suggesting to you that there’s every bit as much good in 9/11 as there was bad.” In 2011 Ray was convicted of negligent homicide in the deaths of three of his students who died on his retreat in a sweat lodge he mismanaged.

Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series describes the fruits of using the Secret while images of his Malibu mansion are shown in the background,

“Since I learned the Secret and started applying it to my life, my life has truly become magical…I live in a four-and-a-half million dollar mansion…I get to vacation in all the fabulous spots of the world. I’ve climbed mountains. I’ve explored. I’ve been on safaris. And all of this happened, and continues to happen, because of knowing how to apply The Secret.”

Secret presenter Michael Beckwith makes astonishing claims about the power of the Law of Attraction, “I’ve seen kidneys regenerated. I’ve seen cancer dissolved. I’ve seen eyesight improve and come back.” And The Secret itself states “Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity’s ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness.”

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction is the quintessential form of spiritual bypassing. It requires you to avoid, deny and suppress anything that is perceived to be negative. The end result is the creation of a robot-like person who has disconnected from the reality of their humanness. This means trauma and wounds will go unhealed because they cannot be sufficiently processed. Moreso it means someone will constantly be guarding themselves, interrogating their mind and in a state of paranoia about their thoughts. They are left in a state of worry, monitoring their inner dialogue because their quasi-religious belief system has taught them it is a dangerous place in which any wrong thought can lead to a disaster. This is Calvinism 2.0.

Psychotherapists have described how they’ve seen patients who use the Law of Attraction get sucked into shame spirals. What this means is that people become even more depressed when their efforts to use the Law of Attraction don’t work. Since practitioners are taught that the law is perfect, then any failure must be due to the user. Thus, the person depressed from having cancer or heavy debt becomes even more depressed when they think they’re a failure for being unable to apply the Law of Attraction properly and fix their situation. The system sets a high bar and practitioners can easily get down on themselves for not following it perfectly. Similar shame spirals have happened with people practicing Byron Katie’s The Work.

Not only can the Law of Attraction lead someone to bypass their own pain but it can lead them to bypass harmful or negative behavior of their partners or people in their lives. The Secret asks us to write down all of the positive qualities of an abusive partner for example. Thus, the important acts of discernment and judgment in a harmful relationship are dismissed as “negative.” A practitioner may try to spin a clearly problematic or dangerous situation in a positive light. Anger, frustration, fear or sadness about what is happening is portrayed as negative and could be dismissed or denied. 

And what about people who suffer from severe phobias? Wouldn’t the Law of Attraction predict that someone who is constantly obsessed with the fear of car crashes would quickly get into a car accident? And what sort of divine or universal intelligence is this that would punish someone further who is deeply struggling with a mental illness like a phobia by then sending them negative experiences?

Most importantly, research in psychology has shown that this devout adherence to positive thinking isn’t supported by the data. As Mark Manson describes in his article “The Staggering Bullshit of The Secret.” 

“But this prescription for ‘delusionally positive’ thinking can have negative consequences for people as well. Psychological research shows that trying to suppress thoughts about something only makes those thoughts more likely to recur. In fact, rumination and obsession appear to operate in this manner, especially in people with chronic mental disorders like OCD, depression, and anxiety: the more you try to get rid of unwanted thoughts, the more these thoughts dominate your mental space. It’s like if I tell you, “Never think about a pink elephant!” the first thing that likely pops into your mind is a pink elephant. Thinking about the things you do not want can lead to more negative thinking and put you in a vicious cycle of negativity.

Research also shows that actively engaging in positive thinking, such as when you imagine getting a job, doing well on an exam, or even successfully recovering after surgery, can actually result in poorer outcomes. Psychologists think that this kind of delusional positive thinking can make us complacent and lazy, as though we already accomplished something we have yet to accomplish, causing us to put forth less effort and to feel less motivated.

Other studies show that people who engage in “self-affirmations” and are then presented with information that threatens their affirmation (even healthy criticism or feedback) actually engage in more faulty reasoning than people who don’t use self-affirmations. In fact, people who indulge in delusional positive thinking ironically become downright angry when someone tries to contradict their wall of airy-fairy thoughts. The truth about their situation just becomes that much more painful to them.”

How Does It Actually Work?

Proponents of the Law of Attraction never tell us how it really works. Do seven “negative” thoughts from yesterday mean seven “negative” experiences today? Or do negative thoughts from two weeks ago affect the current moment? Or is it only negative thoughts from the last few hours that could attract something like a car accident in the present? What if the mix of negative and positive thoughts are equal in a day? Is the impact canceled out? What if your overall “vibration” is “low” and you are chronically depressed, mopy and anxious but you manipulate your mental reality by rehearsing positive thoughts in your mind throughout the day? Is it the actual thoughts or the overall energy vibration that matters most? 

We have tens of thousands of thoughts each day, some of which may be considered negative, neutral or positive. Take the seven billion people on the planet and multiply it by the tens of thousands of thoughts they have each day and you have an almost unfathomable puzzle to solve. Who or what is computing all of this and assigning positive and negative experiences to each of the seven billion people’s lives? Does god send a lighting bolt down for someone who is thinking negative thoughts? A pony for a little girl who is behaving well? Death via a murder to someone who had one too many negative thoughts? While Hicks and other modern new-age thinkers denounce the draconian ethics of traditional religion their own beliefs end up sounding a lot like them. 

Proponents have also never offered a clear explanation of what exactly qualifies as a negative or positive thought or emotion. Sometimes we hear cliche statements like anger, hatred or jealousy are negative. But those are just part of being human. They arise in response to real-world events. Certainly one could overly dwell on some thoughts but it is human to experience reactions to life’s stimuli. If you didn’t get into the school of your dreams it is perfectly human to feel upset and disappointed. But the Law of Attraction proponents would argue that this is “negative” and would attract bad things to your life. In reality, one’s psychological state would be detrimentally impacted by avoiding the fullness of who they are.

While we can manipulate our thoughts, we cannot manipulate our emotions. This is why the idea of “negative” emotions is not accurate. There is no such thing as a negative emotion. There are just emotions that arise inside of us. Perhaps difficult emotion is a better word for those experiences that we find unpleasant. One cannot control the emotions arising, they can only choose to experience and process them or not. Being real about what is happening and meeting it with compassion and understanding is a much wiser approach than attempting to cut off or control reality. 

The “Law” of Attraction?

The Law of Attraction is by no meaningful definition a law. At best it is a hypothesis which is defined by Google as a “supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” Yet, author Jack Canfield claims it is “the most powerful law in the universe. Just like gravity, it is always in effect, always in motion.” None of the proponents of this idea have ever offered a systematized break down of how the law actually functions, however. No one has explained how it works beyond vague statements like “you attract your reality.” Yet, to become a law, let alone a theory there needs to be evidence and a well thought out rationale behind it all. Instead, the public has been fed a variety of cliche statements, half-truths and faux scientific claims about the reality of this supposed universal law. 

Proponents in The Secret also invoke quantum physics to bolster their arguments that the Law of Attraction is scientific. They claim that thoughts vibrate on positive and negative frequencies and that quantum physics explains that everything is “energy” and therefore can be manipulated by our minds. New thought minister and Secret star Michael Beckwith claims, “It has been proven scientifically that an affirmative thought is hundreds of times more powerful than a negative thought.” Also in The Secret, Mike Dooley states, “It is no more difficult to attract on a scientific level something that we consider huge to something we consider infinitesimally small.” There is a difference however, because what happens on the quantum level is not equatable with what happens on a larger scale. And even if one could manipulate reality on the quantum level it doesn’t mean that the universe then becomes a giant ATM for the Law of Attraction devotee. Also, brainwaves are incredibly weak, which is why sensitive electrodes are needed to measure them.

If the Law of Attraction were really a scientific law that worked 100% of the time then literally every single moment of each day would somehow be choreographed by one’s thoughts. Everything that occurred, no matter how big or small, would happen entirely because of one’s thoughts. Spilling your coffee on the kitchen table. Your puppy peeing on your slippers. The sink getting clogged and splashing water on your work clothes. Winning a $5 lotto ticket. Getting a raise. Puncturing a tire on the way home. Just imagine the sort of complex super consciousness that would need to continually regulate all thoughts and then assign them experiences, pair people or groups together for events, in the real world accordingly.

Postmodern Salvation

“We must understand that the founder of a cult or new religion has no room for compromise: absolutes are necessary. True believers in mystical psychotherapy will not embrace a gospel with modest claims: it must be all or nothing.”– Martin Larson

While there are no claims of virgin births or bodily resurrections made by the new prophets of positive thinking they do preach many miraculous and magical ideas. And like other religions, the Law of Attraction promises salvation from the difficulties, anxieties and tensions of everyday life, which undeniably fuels its mass cultural appeal. Every era seems to have a book or an influential figure who is able to fill this role. 

Charismatic leaders viewed as Godlike speak with authority and conviction. In early videos Hicks can be seen shouting at her audience in a way that is reminiscent of fire and brimstone preachers.  It is this unwavering absolutism and belief in her system that has allowed her to convince the masses to drink from the positive thinking well.

The Law of Attraction is perhaps the most accurate form of postmodern religion one could imagine. It is individualistic (no community needed, one person’s thoughts run the world); narcissistic (the universe will supply me with anything I ask for); focused on immediate gratification (it’s central teaching is to “feel good now”); materialistic (strongly emphasizes achieving money and wealth); detached from structural reality (lacks an awareness of political/social/cultural systems) and is hypocritical (claims to be free from religious dogma when it is actually reproducing it). 

The Law of Attraction is also similar to dogmatic religion in that criticism or questioning of the system is not allowed. All critique is dismissed as “negative thinking” and practitioners often become very defensive when challenged. Author Barbara Ehrenreich describes this as the “cult of cheerfulness.” The Secret author, Rhonda Byrne warns, “If you are criticizing, you are not being grateful.” Diane Ahlquist in the Idiots Guide to the Law of Attraction states, “Challenging the source can come off as a lack of belief….If the law of attraction hasn’t worked for you yet, you are probably saying or thinking many things, none of them particularly positive….The best advice I can give you is to stop questioning the process because by doing so, you’re effectively telling the universe that you don’t trust it.” This is not unlike true Christian believers who have it ingrained within them that doubt, questioning or critique are profound threats to their salvation. With the Law of Attraction however, the leaders have ingeniously convinced practitioners that questioning will lead to them attracting terrible situations to themselves. Thus, practitioners won’t go to hell like Christians may believe if they abandon their belief, rather their lives will become hell. Coach Julia Stewart describes how the Law of Attraction shares a fundamental trait with cults.

“It is the insistence that you replace your current worldview with a completely new one in order to get what you want and that you must control your thoughts and eliminate any deviation from what is prescribed in order to succeed. That robs you of your inner knowing, common sense, intuition, confidence, etc. Then you become dependent upon the Law of Attraction “experts” to help you succeed. Usually they’re happy to sell you more books, programs, coaching, seminars, etc. that explain all over again what and how you should think. Folks do get rich with the Law of Attraction, but it’s usually the sellers, not the buyers.”

Spiritual Growth is NOT Easy

In this quick fix and immediate gratification culture, people want easy solutions to their pain and suffering. Abraham Hicks and her new age teachings provide this easy approach. They don’t actually work however. The Law of Attraction merely guides people to bypass, escape, deny and suppress those difficult aspects. While the practitioner may experience a brief reprieve from the immediate suffering they are experiencing it won’t last because the core issue was never dealt with. Merely staying positive and thinking happy thoughts won’t address one’s concerns.

Now, more than ever we need to challenge this narrative that spiritual growth is easy. Instead of running away from our pain, shadows and difficult emotions we need tools to embrace them and work with them. Real spiritual growth is tough. There are no quick fixes or easy outs. And we must use discernment to sort through what is a healthy and not healthy form of spirituality.


[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]