For last week’s Wednesday Woo, click here.
The latest craze in New Age philosophy, called the “law of attraction” has dominated pop culture like a maddening song. It’s the MMMbop of self help, running through people’s heads, and echoing from their lips like the annoyingly positive verbal diarrhea that it is. “Thoughts become things….thoughts become things,” is parroted over and over again, washing over the world’s populace as waves of stupid provoked by a raging storm of charlatans and self-help gurus who decided to enrich themselves by plagiarizing the emerald tablet. New age believers often dip their toes in whatever philosophy makes them feel good, since it is a form of pantheism. All religions and ideas have some bit of truth according to the pantheist, so why not steal some ideas from the occult? It would be a great way to sell books, make videos, and hold expensive self-help conferences.
Hermetic philosophy, which derives from the writings (the “Emerald Tablet”) of the fictional character, Hermes Trismegistus, and has inspired occult superstition since the dark ages of Europe. Now it has been simplified and mass produced on a level only the internet and microphone headsets can achieve. I will grant the notion some credit; it did inspire European culture to strive for better science, since many well-known alchemists were staunch followers. Alchemy is now considered a pseudoscience, and was eventually replaced with chemistry. Another contribution attributed to the practice of alchemy is hermetic sealing, which aided us in preserving foods by canning them. Here are the seven Hermetic principles:
As you can see, many of these terms, like “vibration” “manifest” and “law” are the same ones conflated often by those who tout this inane attraction rubbish. They will tell you that in the*law* of attraction is the power of the*mind* and thinking positive or negative thoughts *cause* the *vibration* of what *manifests* as an *effect* of your thinking. Well then, let’s define these terms scientifically to see if they hold up to scrutiny, shall we?
Law – “A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the universe. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements. Factual and well-confirmed statements like “Mercury is liquid at standard temperature and pressure” are considered too specific to qualify as scientific laws.’”
Mind – “noun 1.(in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.:the processes of the human mind.2.Psychology. the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities.3.intellect or understanding, as distinguished from the faculties of feeling and willing; intelligence.”
Cause – 1“a :a reason for an action or condition :motive b :something that brings about an effect or a result trying to find the cause of the accident c :a person or thing that is the occasion of an action or state a cause for celebration; especially :an agent that brings something about She is the cause of your troubles. d :sufficient reason discharged for cause”
Vibration – periodic back-and-forth motion of the particles of an elastic body or medium, commonly resulting when almost any physical system is displaced from its equilibrium condition and allowed to respond to the forces that tend to restore equilibrium.
Manifest – verb (used with object)3.to make clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show plainly:He manifested his approval with a hearty laugh.4.to prove; put beyond doubt or question:The evidence manifests the guilt of the defendant.
Effect – power to bring about a result :influence the content itself of television … is therefore less important than its effect—Current Biography
Now let’s reword the sentence with the real definitions, and see if it makes sense:
The*statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the universe [and] always applies under the same conditions* of attraction is the power of the *element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges* and thinking positive or negative thoughts *brings about an effect* [of] the *periodic back-and-forth motion* of what *make[s] clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show[s] plainly* as a *result/influence* of your thinking.
Sounds legit – like these thoughts are playing tennis with reality. So does this “thoughts become things” idea really work? Let’s do an experiment and see:
Think about your favorite movie star all day, and see if they knock on your door. According to this law, it should occur. Remember, laws are testable, and always reliable, like gravity, and should happen very plainly. This move star should knock on your door just as you imagined. Now if this manifests in your lifetime, without you putting forth any effort other than thinking, I will be impressed, and you should win some sort of Nobel prize for having figured out the way of thinking the world into peace. By the way, there are many folks out there trying to do this very thing – have been for years, and yet turmoil continues to exist.
I am obsessed with owls. I know it’s weird, but I like what I like. I think about them a lot, look at pictures, read books, and watch documentaries about them. I thoroughly appreciate owls, still, I rarely see an owl in the wild. If this concept were true, wouldn’t I manifest owls all the time? I think some very negative things about people sometimes – especially when I drive in traffic behind some goon who wants to go twenty miles below the speed limit. I visualize their head exploding, but it never happens. The jury is still out on whether or not this is a negative or positive thought… haha…
The only thing that will manifest as a direct result from the law of attraction is more law of attraction books and videos. Plain and simple, this is an example of wishful thinking. Once again, you have charlatans who want to make money on the desperation of others. Those who are sick, broke, want relationships, and have all sorts of needs would be the very ones attracted to such a notion. Sadly this will not help them, and if someone is sick, this kind of magical thinking can really cause damage. It’s dangerous to tell people they can think their way into wellness as opposed to seeking medical treatment.
I don’t know about you, but I am rather skeptical of anyone with the title “Reverend Dr.”
Now there is nothing wrong with trying to remain positive, in fact, it can help reduce stress which can help people in many ways. But to conflate this logically into every single aspect of reality is absolutely ridiculous and dangerous. I found this video of Rationality Rules where he breaks down the law of attraction quite well, and displays the flaws in the logic.
You can be a positive person without being a sucker to those who are trying to profit from things you desire. The best defense against charlatans is to use critical thinking, and beware of those who conflate scientific terms to suit their own claims.