A feel-good philosophy manufactured for today’s enlightened narcissist, this is the “law” popularized in both versions of the movie “The Secret.”

We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very [ticked] off.  — Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club

It’s just the next coming of the same old New Age cavalry.— Douglas Cowen, a professor of religion (quoted in The Christian Science Monitor)

The law of attraction is the latest in a line of American religious traditions that believe, in some sense, people create their own realities by their thoughts:

  • The New Thought movement
  • The New Age movement
  • The Positive Confession (Mind-Science) movement
  • “Prosperity Gospel” ideas
  • The Word of Faith movement, which includes pastors T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen

Christians acknowledge that the idea is built upon 19th-century occultism. It works so well that the principals involved in the movie, the book, and the website are all suing the pants off each other.

  • It is magical thinking: the idea you can control the world by what you think. You don’t think hard work is necessary. All you need to do is to believe. If your belief is strong enough, the law says, you will get what you want.
  • It is infantile and narcissistic: it is all about you and what you want and are thinking.
  • It is materialistic: it is all about riches for you. No one uses the law of attraction to wage peace, pursue justice, promote literacy, banish poverty, cure disease, stop climate change or to save endangered species and habitats. The people behind the movie prove it.
  • Many of its claims are based on pseudoscience, which is a faith-based system.

Above all, it is ecologically unsound.

Seventy-five percent of the world’s population — more than 4.5 billion people — live on just 15% of the world’s resources, while we in the West gorge on the remaining 85%. The world simply does not have the resources, renewable or otherwise, to sustain Western lifestyles across the globe.  — Eamon O’Hara, a Brussels-based policy adviser for the Irish Regions Office, which represents Irish interests in the European Union

Quantum Quackery

New Age thinking always tosses in physics but relies on Deepak Chopra’s visions, unless it can find a fringe member of the physics community.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a physicist or cosmologist who would agree that quantum mechanics or quantum cosmology would confirm that the universe emerges from thought. That’s something science has not addressed … and scientists wouldn’t consider provable at this point.  —Bruce Schumm of the University of California—Santa Cruz (quoted in The Christian Science Monitor)

Believing in Absurdities Leads to Atrocities

The law of attraction blames innocent victims by claiming that when bad things happen it was because the victims had bad thoughts.As a site promoting one feng shui practitioner, Marie Diamond, says,

The law of attraction puts whatever you think about into your life, so you have to be careful what you put in your mind and how you feel about it.

If language is so powerful, why can’t it be used for good instead of narcissism? Jane Goodall wonders.

It’s a triumph of marketing and magic. The Secret has earned my antipathy for its outrageous, unproven assertions that I believe go beyond the ordinary overpromises of most self-help books into a danger realm. … Cancer victims. Sexual assault victims. Holocaust victims. They’re responsible? The book is riddled with these destructive falsehoods.  — John Norcross, a psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who conducts research on self-help books (CNN: The Secret: Big Sales, Loud Criticism)

The law of attraction would have you

  • blame babies for physical and sexual abuse — it was what the babies were thinking.
  • blame rape on the victim — she wanted it.
  • blame the daily killing of thousands of unwanted cats and dogs on the animals, because they were thinking about being euthanized.
  • blame AIDS orphans, because they evidently wanted their parents to die of the disease.
  • blame the Holocaust on the Jews, gays, Czechs, etc.
  • blame Darfur on the victims.
  • blame Abu Ghraib on the prisoners.

Not so, you claim? And yet, the day after I published this article, Tim Watkin flayed the philosophy in The Washington Post:

I watched Bob Proctor, author of “You Were Born Rich” and one of the “gurus” Byrne quotes most often, being asked on “Nightline” whether the starving children of Darfur had “manifested” — that is, visualized — their own misery. In utter seriousness, he replied, “I think the country probably has.” The book is not nearly so equivocal. “Imperfect thoughts are the cause of humanity’s ills,” Byrne asserts, in a stunning sentence that had me pondering how to perfect my thoughts, pronto. Poverty? “The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts. “Illness? “You cannot ‘catch’ anything unless you think you can. … You are also inviting illness if you are listening to people talking about their illness.” So … got any sick friends who need a shoulder to cry on? Tell ’em to bug off! As for Elizabeth Edwards — how selfish is she? By making people think about her cancer, she’s basically giving them the disease. What at first glance looks like the world according to Disney — wish on a star, and it will all come true — turns out to be a pretty ugly little secret indeed.