The Strong Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction isn’t a new idea, but with the releases of What the Bleep Do We Know!? and The Secret it may now have more believers than ever before. The hypothesis has been analyzed (and dismantled) so thoroughly by skeptics, philosophers, neurologists, and quantum physicists that I didn’t think I’d have anything original to say about it, but a few criticisms have popped into my head recently that I haven’t run into elsewhere (if you have, please let me know). I’ll share them, for what they’re worth.

In my experience the Law of Attraction comes in two flavors which I’ve started mentally referring to as the strong Law of Attraction and the weak Law of Attraction.

Adherents of the strong law claim that we’re gods who don’t know that we’re gods. We have unlimited power fettered by very limited understanding. Nothing stands in the way of having everything we could ever want, instantly and effortlessly, except our own minds. The universe never fails to give us exactly what we wish for at every moment, so our wishes must be the failing point.

Someone wanting to fly would only have to believe wholeheartedly that he could. Most people are convinced that human flight is impossible (or at least have deep-seated, unconquered doubts about it) and that belief produces our inability to fly. The double-edge of unlimited power is that you have unlimited ability to limit yourself — a god who believes he’s a man can only be a man until he believes something else. Every doubt and anxiety and fear is as much of a reality-shaper as every desire. It’s not a problem of not getting what you wish for; it’s a problem of an undisciplined mind consciously or unconsciously polluting and sabotaging every wish you make.

A few exemplary individuals in history (religious icons, many of them) have fully realized their divinity and taken the reins. They’ve ceased their self-defeat and mastered their personal power, rendering all things possible.

This is the strong law in a nutshell, and though you might think it’s just an extreme interpretation I’ve found it to be surprisingly common. As I recall this picture isn’t painted explicitly in The Secret, but they sure do seem to be trying to plant the seed.

The strong law borders on solipsism and shares its many flaws. What makes it especially unconvincing for me is that it seems to render human discovery impossible.

There was a point in history (more distant than most people think) when the world was assumed by all to be flat. The notion of the world as a free-floating orb never entered the minds of our earliest ancestors. Why would it? What reason would they have had to question something so transparent to the senses? Doubting the world’s flatness would be like doubting a heavy thing’s heaviness or a red thing’s redness — a philosophical exercise that cavemen didn’t have the leisure for.

So in a world filled with god-men who were in harmonious agreement that the world was flat, why didn’t the world resolve to actual flatness? They weren’t aware that the world could be anything but flat. There was no doubt, no fear, no confusion. For the Law of Attraction, there’s no better condition than single-mindedness of this magnitude. And yet roundness (something no one was desiring, at least until someone started to wonder what held everything up) is what we eventually found, in spite of all this.

What went wrong? To individuals with ultimate power, the difference between manifesting a flat Earth and a new car is trivial. How could a universally-held belief ever be proven false in a framework where belief governs reality?

And how in this framework could we make discoveries for which we have no expectations whatsoever? Since the Earth became round we’ve stumbled upon germs, quasars, tectonic plates, radios waves, quantum entanglement, dinosaurs, etc. Usually scientists see things coming, but certainly at least one world-changing thing has been discovered in the past for which there was no precedent and came as a complete surprise. What, if not human intention, conjured these things into existence?

Clearly this power of ours must be limited. In order for the Law of Attraction to be compatible with an objective, independent, pre-human reality (which our ability to discover things entirely new to us is an indicator of) there must be physical laws which remain untouched by it. Our creative influence must have boundaries.

Where the boundaries are drawn is the problem of the weak Law of Attraction, which is the subject of the next post.

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