How “Law of Attraction”, New Thought Philosophy, and the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus converge…
I have had some of these thoughts for a while, and decided to start getting them down on paper. Here’s a start…
I am fascinated by the “Law of Attraction” and its stormy rough-ride through the modern day American psyche.
About seven years back, The Secret took the world by storm. With a slick and kind of cheezy video featuring a number of scientists, philosophers, and New Thought luminaries, The Secret made its way onto none other than the Oprah Winfrey show, where, I seem to have heard, the interviewees slightly embarrassed the whole phenomenon by focusing a little too heavily on manifesting the shiny new red sports car and a sack of cash.
I also recall a number of people I knew who were initially smitten by the book, the film, the concept, who then did a radical about-face, declaring it to be simplistic, overly materialistic, and not sufficiently honoring of the so-called “shadow.” It was clear that they were psycho-spiritually embarrassed, as if they had fallen for a spit-shined metaphysical Ponzi Scheme, and temporarily lost their souls to Rhonda Byrne’s Madoffian “you can have it all” message. They couldn’t dissociate themselves fast enough.
Well, I don’t know where Rhonda went, but it is safe to say she went there enjoying the huge prosperity she had manifested from her staggeringly successful venture into her book and video. Good for her.
Then I (and others who did not join the new backlash craze, which was every bit as impassioned as the original attraction) became aware that well before The Secret, Abraham-Hicks were teaching a significantly more developed version of “The Law of Attraction” (or LOA, as it is often called in Social Media.) Abraham is the name given to a collection of non-physical beings who, as one collective source, deliver their teachings through Esther Hicks, who seems to have been somewhat of a good-hearted, if charmingly neurotic bumpkin without any particular big philosophy, metaphysical or otherwise, before she and her husband, Jerry Hicks (now passed on to “pure positive energy”, as Abraham would say) made contact with Abraham. Their relationship parallels in some ways the Jane Roberts and Seth teachings, as captured in that significant collection of works.
(By the way, Abraham-Hicks do not use the term “channeled” to describe the transmission—it is explained that Abraham delivers thought blocks to Esther, who translates or renders them into language as best she can. It is also explained that BECAUSE Esther had no previous truck with complex philosophy, she was an excellent candidate for clear transmission without too much residue from past studies getting in the mix.)
(Personal Note: Esther’s renderings are stunningly consistent, rapid-fire deliveries of highly complex teachings and responses to audience questions. I can’t say I have ever met anyone in my life who can match her for that. I have listened to scores of such tapes…)
My sense is that the general public, those who were new to LOA through The Secret, and who felt burned (Byrned?) and ashamed of their brief tryst with that whole presentation, were in no mood to explore Abraham-Hicks, as they had pretty much given up on the whole thing. They were on to their next new thing.
Those who had already been New Thoughters, or who still felt like there was something worth exploring, moved into the now voluminous Abraham-Hicks materials to harvest the teachings therein.
Some spiritually-minded friends, as well as self-designated “logical” and hard-nosed thinkers view the LOA teachings as a mere drop in the pond of spiritual teachings, hardly worth an after-thought, and certainly not part of any significant rippling of teachings on that great pond.
But here’s something interesting. Somebody early on told me that the term “Law of Attraction” was new, coined by Abraham-Hicks. For some reason, that statement piqued my curiosity. So, of course, as any good scholar would do, I Googled it.
Thus I came to discover that William Walker Atkinson, an incredibly popular and prolific New Thought writer of the early 20th century, wrote “Thought Vibration, Or, The Law of Attraction in the Thought World” in 1910. So much for it being a new term. The whole look of the book itself, and the language of it seemed to me SO incredibly current, that I entertained the possibility that Atkinson was not a real person, but a pseudo-writer somebody made up recently to sell more Law of Attraction products. Turns out he WAS a real person. Atkinson also wrote under the name “Yogi Ramacharaka”, among others. He penned over one hundred books in the last thirty years of his life. As I said, prolific…
So during this time I was wrestling around tracking this stuff, wondering if Atkinson was real, I had this interesting little spiritual and metaphysical side show. A scholarly friend of mine, who was not at all familiar with New Thought, but somewhat self assuredly informed me that “there is no new thought” (by the way, that is the first thing New Thought books point out on page one, but the thing is, you have to actually READ them to get to that part) told me that if I really wanted to get an overview of the deep (not “New Thought stuff”, but really deep) “mystery school” teachings, I would do well to read The Kybalion, a compendium of the ancient Hermetic Teachings, at that time still only known to be penned by “The Three Initiates.” I read it. Good stuff.
And here you get TWO “Lo and Beholds” for the price of one. It turns out that one of the 7 Key Hermetic Teachings (of Hermes Trismegistus—you can Google him) relates to “Vibration”, and the book talks about “cohesion, the principle of Molecular Attraction, and Chemical Affinity.” The Law of Attraction. That “Vibration” section ends with this line:
“As one of the old Hermetic writers has truly said: “He who understands the Principle of Vibration, has grasped the scepter of Power.” Hmmm… Interesting. So the Law of Attraction just got thousands of years older. I guess Rhonda didn’t make it up. Of course, she never claimed to.
Oh, and the second “Lo and Behold”: In the last couple years, it has been discovered that “The Three Initiates” turned out to be none other than William Walker Atkinson, author of “Thought Vibration, Or, The Law of Attraction in the Thought World. “ I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
I guess my scholar friend was familiar with New Thought writing after all.
So the connections get older, wider, more inter-laced. This is an old, old teaching. You may not like how it sounds when you work through the ramifications of the theory (a lot of people do not), but at some level our language has been resonating this message forever:
That which is like unto itself is drawn.
Birds of a feather flock together.
You get out of it what you put into it.
What goes around comes around.
Like pays a visit to like.
Another thought: I’m kind of convinced that, with a few quirks and tweaks favored by Hinduism and/or Buddhism, the Law of Attraction and “Karma” are fundamentally the same “thing.”
Law of Attraction takes a wider view, applying the principle to the physical world of “stuff” (yes, you actually CAN manifest more prosperity), whereas Karma often seems to carry more of a feel of a “moral weight” attached to each of our actions in a cause-and-effect chain. It has a clear “like attracts like” vibe that often feels like “paybacks are hell”, although in theory good actions reap good outcome as well. (I know, there are a million takes on what Karma is and is not–I have read them too…)
The shared principle would seem to be “There are consequences to the energy you put out into the universe; what you put out attracts more of the same.” Thus, with both Karmic Law and Law of Attraction, it can be said “You create your own reality”, a teaching that spans any god’s number of spiritual and metaphysical lineages.
Even American philosopher Henry Ford was onto this with his famous quote: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right…” Put out negativity and pessimism, and you will get back what you expected.
But Abraham-Hicks were not the first to apply these ancient teachings of vibrational alignment to the world of stuff. Who has not at least THOUGHT about reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”? Turns out he was a New Thoughter, and that the original version (“cleaned up” by publishers) was all about “Vibration” and the Law of Attraction. You can Google that too. Or You Tube it.
Indeed, in the history of New Thought, there is a wide swath of literature called the Prosperity Literature. Such writers as Charles Fillmore, Wayne Dyer, Wallace Wattles, Florence Scovel Shinn, and others wrote voluminously about the topic.
Phineas Quimby took spiritual/metaphysical teachings, and, unlike Emerson and others before him, moved from more strictly philosophical realms to an application in healing, at the physical level, at the level of form. Similarly, the New Thought movement, which championed prosperity, took what had been applied primarily to the spiritual realms, and applied it to the world of form. You could actually manifest prosperity in this life. This has long been an important teaching in many New Thought lineages. Thus it seems very natural and obvious to me to locate Abraham-Hicks directly in the center ring of New Thought.
…A friend of mine, a Rudolf Steiner fan, is fond of saying that Steiner predicted that once we cultivate our own alignment with our true divine capacities, and harness their power, we will be able to simply think about a glass of water, and it will be there. Abraham-Hicks would say “Exactly. The moment you become vibrationally aligned with, or the vibrational equivalent of, that glass of water, it cannot not appear.”
Anyway, my point in this writing is not to convince anybody of anything. I just wanted to pull together some threads and point them out, and to point out as well that a lot of folks who moved rapidly through and past the Law of Attraction materials probably did not know that Law of Attraction had such a long, multi-millennial currency, and has just a little more depth to it than “If I wish for a million dollars and an elephant, they will show up.”
Also, for readers who “disagree” with Law of Attraction, I don’t really need or want to know why. Good luck to you, and I am sure you will manifest what you believe in, which, delightfully, will end up making both of us feel like we nailed it.
A true win-win.
Dr. James Michael Nolan